Chapter 4. - Selling the Diamond Myth.

 This chapter tells how De Beers made vast profits in the US during the Second World War... while transforming the image of the diamond and fighting furious Justice Department lawyers.

Some excepts from the chapter -.


... Harry had some serious problems in the US. De Beers could not open an office there because the Sherman Act banned price fixing - an essential element in its business. Yet the Oppenheimers had over 40 million carats of diamonds in the vaults and with the war in Europe there was no other place to sell them. They had to find a way around the Sherman Act. They were prepared to reorganise De Beers itself to meet this need. Harry Oppenheimer's son Nicky confirmed us...

... De Beers and Ayer set out to create a new myth that would make the diamond engagement ring a necessity for every couple. It quickly proved so profitable that De Beers spent about half a million pounds every year of the Second World War, a vast sum in those days, to ensure this myth was believed by all Americans.. An Ayer report of August 1940 stated that it had prepared and placed in 9 months 3,500 diamond movie stories and 16,500 diamond news stories. Diamond stories were placed in all high circulation magazines, including in Readers Digest, in the New York Evening News, in Brides Magazine and in teenage periodicals....

....'A long series of conferences with Paramount officials, capped by your own efforts, succeeded in getting the title of 'Diamonds are Dangerous' changed to 'Adventures in Diamonds.'' Ayer prepared cards to be put in local jewelers' windows for when 'Adventure in Diamonds' was at the local cinema. . 'We are sending fifteen photographs of models decorated with diamond jewelry for distribution in advertising and publicity program of Paramount pictures in regard to 'Adventure in Diamonds' motion picture'. In the 1941 film 'Skylark' a scene was inserted where diamonds were purchased for the star Claudette Coubert. In 'That Uncertain Feeling' (1941) Merle Oberon dripped with $40,000 worth of De Beer's diamonds..

... De Beers ran a series of 'patriotic advertisements' explaining every gem diamond purchased helped fund the production of industrial diamonds. This wasn't strictly true. De Beers already had in its vaults nearly all the gems it was marketing. It had closed the mines that produced the best gems and tool diamonds at the outbreak of war, leaving open only the Congo mines that produced at the cheapest cost the poorer quality industrial diamonds it was supplying to American industry...

Advertisements appeared with titles like 'Diamonds in Overalls', 'Diamonds Go to the Front', 'Diamonds Break a Bottleneck', 'Diamonds and the call to Arms', 'Fighting Diamonds' and 'Jewelry Jeeps' appeared on billboards and in magazines throughout the war years. The following is an example of the persuasive text of one advertisement


'A Jap would say it was a weapon.

His eyes would glisten

as he pictured the diamond

cracked into minute drill-head teeth

biting through the earth.

'In Germany today diamonds similar

to those in your treasured sweetheart symbol

are being pried from women's jewelry,

pierced by electric-sparking platinum needles.




'It will help him more there over your heart.

'Fortunately we possess almost the entire world's supply

of another kind of diamond to do the hard work.

The jewel diamonds are helping the war effort in another way.

'They are found in the same mines. Sales of the occasional

jewel stones discovered among industrials

help keep down the cost of industrial diamonds.'

... The American Justice Department fumed: 'This form of profiteering is the more obnoxious because it involves a most vital war material and because it has been accompanied by pious public professions of sacrifice... they are making a profit of 200 to 300%'......

(The wartime battle between the US Justice Department and De Beers is dealt with in the following chapter.)