Gentle readers will never have heard of Ann Barnhardt and may cry if they read her posts about Pope Francis, so be warned about reading anything further than this excellent piece on diamonds and her link to The Atlantic. I read the Atlantic piece last night, and all I can say is that it proves my mother's attitude towards advertising right yet again.
My mother brought her children up to be anti-consumerist not because she is a Sixty-Eighter but because she is a Catholic. And she always said that if some toy was advertised on television, we would not get it for Christmas. This was a perfect way to make us shun and distrust advertising--which can be difficult to do as advertising often looks fantastic.
You should see the ads the British supermarkets have on television right now, preparing us all for Christmas. Food, food, glorious food. Forget about baking your Christmas cake or mixing up your glorious Christmas pudding. You can get them, and everything else, from Lidl and your very large and happy family will think you bought it at Marks and Spencer (cue angel choir) or Waitrose (awed hush, all fall to knees).
(Incidentally, Polish Pretend Son thinks I am obsessed with the British Class System. Well, I would not say obsessed, but you have to admit that it is fascinating how people define themselves by their choice of supermarket. My dear husband, being caught by a co-worker with a reusable Waitrose bag, by-product of some visit to Morningside, found himself having to explain it away, lest he be thought a snob or a class traitor or whatever it is co-workers might think you for having the wrong shopping bag. Crikey, on the Toronto subway, if I see someone with, say, a Chanel bag, I don't think "A la lanterne les aristos!" but "Oh, lucky GIRL! I wonder what she got!"*)
Anyway, I love glittery ads for diamond rings as much as the next woman, but I am very proud of B.A. that instead of going into hideous debt at a jeweller's for a diamond solitaire engagement ring, he went to an antique shop and got emerald-eyed Ringzilla. And now that I know the history of the advertising of diamonds, I am even prouder. Apparently we could all bring the diamond cabal crashing to its knees by glutting the market with our grandmother's engagement rings. What a hoot!
Update: If you are young and beautiful and were planning on financing your old age with diamond jewellery thrown at you by besotted admirers, all this will come as a terrible shock. Yes, Marilyn Monroe lied to you, for diamonds are most assuredly a girl's best friend. But fear not! There is still hope, and it is gold. Gold is stable. If you are among the very small minority of women who get expensive presents just for being fabulous, try to influence your suitors towards gold. Or silver.
*That said, I have been disappointed by the Chanel window on Bloor Street West for years.
Good reminder about advertising- Sunday was our first snow, and the only place big enough for our daily walk is the mall. It's pretty easy to get sucked in by the lovely cable knit sweaters and figure flattering dresses (that, thankful, I can't afford. And can't wear while Breastfeeding, deeming the dress utterly unusable, hopefully for a good long while!)ReplyDelete
I recommend Pinterest to slake one's shopping thirst. I love Pinterest. You can "buy" tons of beautiful things for free and look at them whenever you want on your Pinterest account.ReplyDelete
I never did put much faith in diamonds, but the lady who wrote that piece is mistaken about at least one thing. I'd read that bit she mentions about diamond engagement rings being "invented" by de Beers and was always suspicious about it, because I was fairly sure I'd seen references to them in novels too early for de Beers to have had any impact on them. So just now I checked. The de Beers diamond engagement ring campaign first began in 1938, according to a quick Google search., but I have one solid reference to diamond engagement rings as the "standard" for such rings in Anne's House of Dreams, first published in 1917. What's more, there is a famous episode in Anne of Green Gables (1908) in which Anne, never having seen a diamond, imagines them as objects of mystical beauty with a *purple* tone, and is deeply disappointed to discover that they are clear-coloured. So while diamonds may be much less valuable than we have been led to think, the idea that de Beers pioneered their use in engagement rings or created the mystique that surrounds these gemstones is incorrect. At most, I'd guess that DB encouraged people to think that diamonds were the only possible stone to use in such rings.ReplyDelete
Ah! Thank you!ReplyDelete
More research suggests De Beers has been around since the 1880s, so Anne does not predate them. The engagement ring as a custom is much older, of course, but the South African diamond trade is a product of the late 1880s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Beers Could it be that Anne (or LMM) herself was a victim of the earliest De Beers advertising campaigns?ReplyDelete
Here's Business Insider on the history of the diamond engagement ring. Apparently diamonds were super-rare before the mid-19th century and owned primarily by royalty. http://www.businessinsider.com/history-of-de-beers-2011-12?op=1&IR=TReplyDelete
The news that the shadow of Cecil Rhodes falls over every diamond engagement ring counter is a bit of a shock.
My understanding was that de Beers didn't begin its hard-sell advertising campaign for diamonds until 1938, which was why I quoted that particular date. I don't know how likely anyone would have been to see or hear diamond advertising if she lived in Prince rural Edward Island without even a radio. I wonder if the Eaton's catalogue carried ads for diamond rings? It started up in 1884, and it's the one form of advertising I can think of that every Canadian, rural or urban, might readily have encountered. However, I think the diamond mystique was made widely-known through the kinds of romantic novels that Anne (and LMM) loved.ReplyDelete
Sigh. That should read "rural Prince Edward Island".Delete
Well, don't forget Rollings Reliable Baking Powder! Ten to one Anne (and LMM) read serial romances in newspapers and magazines.Delete