What if we were to tell you that the whole thing was just one big marketing scam? Today, the writers are taking a deep dive into the jewelry industry to answer the question: why do we care so much about diamonds?

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So, what makes diamonds so special? After all, a diamond is just a glittery little chunk of carbon. And yet, somehow this sparkly mineral has gone on to become the official symbol of matrimonious union: According to data gathered by Jewelry Industry Research Industry head Kenneth Gassman, 75 percent of brides in the United States wear a diamond engagement ring.

In his article of the February 1982 issue of The Atlantic, journalist Edward Jay Epstein wrote about the concept of “the diamond invention”; in other words that the belief that diamonds are rare, valuable, and a must-have status symbol, is entirely a work of fiction, dreamed up by diamond manufacturers as a way to drum up business.

Epstein’s research on the diamond market reaches back to South Africa in the 19th century. In 1870, British businessmen stumbled across a massive diamond mine near South Africa’s Orange River and quickly wasted no time raking in the gems hand over fist.

The discovery of the South African mines threatened to completely topple the assumed value of diamonds by shifting the balance of supply and demand, and at best diamonds would become reclassified as only semiprecious gems.

De Beers was formed in order to monopolize and control the production of diamonds while tricking consumers into believing that the diamonds they sold were still rare and valuable. And at this point, I’m sure it would come as no surprise if we told you that they succeeded.

All the while, De Beers in its many forms perpetuated the illusion of diamonds as something rare enough to be worth the inflated price tag, and for most of the 20th Century, De Beers enjoyed a lofty position as the undisputed kings of the diamond industry.

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