Tom Zoellner has worked as a contributing editor for Men's Health magazine and as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. He is also the co-author of An Ordinary Man (Viking, 2006), the autobiography of Paul Rusesabagina, whose actions during the 1994 Rwandan genocide were portrayed in the movie Hotel Rwanda, and the author of The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit, and Desire.
From a BookBrowse interview with Zoellner:
Q: Why are diamonds such a big deal in America?Read the entire interview.
A: It’s now a $25 billion dollar business. Seven out of every ten American women own at least one. But as it turns out, the idea of a diamond as a popular luxury item is fairly new in this country. A magazine advertising campaign sponsored by De Beers created the consumer desire just a few years before World War II. They sought to make diamonds not just rare, but essential for every man seeking to get married. Famous painters such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali were commissioned to create landscapes next to advertising text that had a strange fixation on death, of all things. But De Beers tried to plant this subtle idea that diamonds are a kind of shield against mortality. "Diamonds are the most imperishable record a man may leave of his personal life," said one of the ads. That’s part of the source for the famous slogan they eventually cooked up in 1948: "A Diamond Is Forever." A phony "tradition" was also established: a groom must spend two months’ salary on his wife’s stone. But this was not a global standard. British men were viewed as more stingy and were told to save one month’s pay. The Japanese, seen as more obedient, were told three.