Diamond sellers have a new marketing tactic: Convincing women to buy their own diamonds. Women, they say in a campaign called "For Me, From Me," deserve to splurge on themselves with diamond jewelry that celebrates anything from a promotion to even a breakup. 

In 2019, the diamond industry will spend more than $200 million in global ad spending — the highest in almost 20 years — as part of an effort to reverse a decline in diamond sales, according to a recent report from Bain and Company and the Antwerp World Diamond Centre. Polished diamond sales are expected to fall 2% globally, while rough diamond sales are expected to fall as much as 25% worldwide, Bain says.   

The ad spend takes different forms in different places. In China, where Western-style weddings are growing in popularity with a swelling middle class, marketers have launched a "Hand-in-Love" campaign to associate diamonds with love and commitment, according to Bain. In India, a recent campaign called "The Most Precious Gift" associates the birth of a child with a gift of diamonds.

But in America, marriage rates are falling, leading to a downturn in so-called "commitment" jewelry, according to a report from De Beers, which says the number of U.S. marriages declined by more than 3% from 2000 to 2017.

So, in campaigns like "For Me, From Me," marketers have a new message: Women should buy diamonds for themselves as a sign of self-empowerment and independence, rather than waiting for a proposal and promises of eternal love. 

"A Diamond is Forever"

Prior to the 2000s, the diamond industry was focused on sparking demand for diamonds, rather than promoting a single brand, according to Bain. That stemmed from the Great Depression, when diamond sales were at all-time low and Americans primarily viewed diamond engagement rings as purchases for the very rich. 

In 1947, De Beers came up with its massively popular slogan "A Diamond is Forever" to imbue diamonds with emotional sentiments like romantic love and commitment as well as to convince consumers not to resell their jewelry. By 1951, eight out of 10 brides in the U.S. received a diamond engagement ring. In 1999, Advertising Age considered it the most successful slogan of the previous century. 

But since then, the diamond industry has dealt with a new set of problems. For one, American consumers don't have the same attachments to diamonds as their parents did. And some consumers are increasingly concerned with the ethical and environmental implications of diamonds, particularly American millennials who grew up learning about diamond conflicts in war-torn Sierra Leone. 

In 2016, the Diamond Producers Association invested $6 million to reintroduce industry-wide campaigns like "A Diamond is Forever," an investment that jumped to as much as $80 million this year, according to Bain. Diamond sellers are also spending $120 million this year on brand-specific ads.

Reward myself

Many women don't need much convincing. One woman interviewed by CBS News, Mindie Barnett, a 45-year-old public relations specialist based in New York and New Jersey, says she often buys herself diamond jewelry to reward herself. The single mother of two young children says she has three businesses going in tandem. She also hopes to pass down her diamond collection to her children one day. 

"I feel like if I can buy a present for myself every so often, you know, why not?" Barnett said. "I think that it's special. I love it. I see it in a mirror, I see it in a dress, and it makes me feel good." 

Barnett's experience echoes the trend of women buying jewelry for themselves, analysts said.

"Women are living on their own more, they may be taking care of others, so they're more comfortable with taking their money and putting it back into themselves," Alexis DeSalva, senior research analyst at Mintel, told CBS News. "I think this campaign is a really good example of how a brand is giving them permission to do that."

Women buy pricier rings

 

De Beers also noted that the number of women who are buying their own engagement rings outright doubled between 2013 and 2017 — and observed that those women report paying more than their fiancés would. According to the diamond conglomerate, brides who bought their own rings spent about $4,400 in 2017, while grooms spent roughly $3,300. 

It's a trend that Tiina Smith, who owns a rare and vintage jewelry store on Boston's Newbury Street, said she has seen grow in her own shop over the past two years. Women — whether they're earning more money or starting a second marriage — are dictating what they want from the beginning, she said. 

They're also often paying more for cut, color and clarity, Smith said. "We have seen that the more women participate in the purchase of their engagement ring, the higher the cost and quality of that engagement ring," she said.

First published on December 23, 2019 / 2:27 PM

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