The Controversy De Beers Diamonds People Talking About

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De Beers remains one of the biggest diamond companies in the world, and the brand boasts control over diamond operations in most parts of the world, running some of the biggest diamond companies in the world.

Unfortunately, De Beers doesn’t have the best reputation. Their reputation has been continually tarnished for years because of their monopoly over the diamonds market, which had to do with them controlling the supply of diamonds in the market, but also because of the fact that they have been several reports of them selling and dealing in blood diamonds.

But how did things turn sour for De Beers that so many people now don’t want to deal with or be associated with the brand?

Well, before we look at the controversy around the diamond company, let’s first review the company’s marketing structure.


De Beers diamond marketing history

De Beers Diamonds

De Beers is the oldest and the most successful diamond company that was established in 1888. The company specializes in diamond mining, exploration, trading, retailing, and also in industrial manufacturing of diamonds.

It was also the first South African diamond mining company – it remains so to date. But at its peak, this international brand prided itself in having ownership of at least 85% of the diamond market.

By the 1990s, De Beers still controlled and dominated the diamond industry, something they did by all means necessary.

De Beers Diamonds

While De Beers has been synonymous with the best of diamonds for several decades now, the thing that’s provided control to De Beers is the fact that the company has had one of the most powerful marketing strategies.

It is largely considered a marketing machine. The company boasts some of the most elegant strategic marketing campaigns. In the 1890s through to around 1912, De Beers had a good hold of the market and made good money selling diamonds to the elite and wealthy.

But then, things slowed down with World Wars I and II and the Great Depression. The demand for diamonds had diminished significantly even though the company still controlled the diamond supply, so they had to work on how to boost sales.

De Beers Diamonds

To boost sales, De Beers contracted the services of a leading New York advertising agency N&W Ayer and Sons, to create a marketing campaign. This campaign meant working with the company’s best and brightest creatives and copywriters.

One of these creatives was Frances Gerety, who came up with the infamous slogan, A Diamond is Forever, to imply that diamonds represented love and not just any kind of love but an undying love meant to last forever.

And so, while Frances came up with the best idea for diamonds, she died single as a spinster.

De Beers Diamonds

And so, thanks to this strategic campaign, the underhanded practices employed in their business, and also the fact that the company controlled the demand, supply, and pricing of all diamonds albeit with an iron fist, the company grew to great heights that it held on to for several decades.

While seeking a huge share over the diamond markets locally and internationally, De Beers faced some challenges, especially because selling the diamonds as a commodity when they were not scarce meant some ethical challenges.

De Beers Diamonds

De Beers’ marketing strategy was mainly based on the guise of the rarity of the stone and the fact that the gemstone would run out.

They did this by controlling the actual supply of diamonds in the market by ensuring that all diamond distributors had to sell the diamonds through and to De Beers, allowing them to sell limited quantities of diamonds at very high prices, hence control over the market.

The truth is that while De Beers sold diamonds as the rarest gemstone, diamonds are not that rare, and there are still many diamond reserves to date. Several other gems are rarer than diamonds, including Black Opals, Jadeite, Alexandrite, Painite, Red Beryl, or Taaffeite.

De Beers Diamonds

So, while De Beers actively sought to ‘invent’ diamonds by making the world believe that they weren’t as popular but very rare, instead, they were able to maintain a hold over the market.

In an article published in 1982 by Edward Jay Epstein in the Atlantic, De Beers was behind the creation of the whole idea that diamonds were valuable and rare, and also the fact that the stones were critical for people’s self-esteem.

This wasn’t 100% true, as we all know now, and now, perceptions of diamonds have changed, all because of the company’s exceptional marketing strategy.

De Beers Diamonds

It’s also worth noting that De Beers’ marketing strategy made diamond engagement rings widespread and commonplace.

So, while the Roman government had passed the rule that engagement rings would be necessary for engagements, De Beers made every man and woman in the world today want to propose an engagement ring.


Controversy Over Diamonds by De Beers

De Beers Diamonds

De Beers’ operations have been tainted in controversy over the years with the colossus diamond mining company that straddles the world’s diamond trades being marred in controversy and often confronted with double controversy.

The most controversy around the diamonds has been fueled by several human rights groups which have accused the company of buying illicit or blood diamonds from most South African countries, notably from African rulers and rebels who then used the proceeds from the diamonds sale to pay for and fuel the wars.

De Beers Diamonds

There was a lot of controversy over the fact that this multinational South-African-based company was running its affairs based on a lie and that the company accumulated millions in raw gems as a way of controlling the demand and supply of diamonds, keeping the diamond prices high at all time, making diamonds the most costly forms of albatrosses.

While this took place, De Beers’ market share dropped, making it harder for them to control product prices, even as they sopped up gemstones for themselves. But that is not all; there is also the fact that De Beers was roped up in a controversy involving blood diamonds.

Essentially, buying the blood diamonds meant they would address the challenge of the shrinking diamonds’ market share.

De Beers Diamonds

In a 1982 book authored by Edward Jay Epstein called The Rise and Fall of Diamonds covering the controversy around questionable De Beers diamonds, their origin, the line between legitimate and unlawful or trafficked diamonds from African rebels from Sierra Leone and Angola, De Beers was starting to get a taint on their name.

It is believed that the company enlisted the services of the United Nations police officers to do the job previously held by mercenaries and dictators, all this to keep off the competition.

At the time, the competition was dumping cheap diamonds on the market, jeopardizing De Beers’ success. And as they sought to boost their image, De Beers did all they could, including funding militia and creating war in different African countries.

De Beers Diamonds

It’s worth noting that most of the company’s trouble was because they used kids in the mines and the mining conditions were inhumane.

A recent controversy surrounding De Beers was the fact that the company is behind the infamous 128-carat yellow diamond owned by Tiffany. The problem here is that De Beers mined the huge stone owned by Tiffany & Co., but not in the most ethical way.

De Beers used enslaved people to mine the diamond, and these individuals were exposed to the most inhumane conditions; some people even died in the mines, all in a bid to secure the gemstone.

De Beers Diamonds

The diamond was mined between 1877 and 1878 at the Kimberly mines. There isn’t much information about the diamonds, though, and information about this only came out recently when Beyonce was made a Tiffany influencer wearing the same stone, which brought a lot of backlash in her direction.


The Dark History of Diamonds and De Beers

De Beers Diamonds

While diamonds are highly regarded as a symbol of status and the perfect way to propose, diamonds, especially the gems by De Beers, were all a big deal. These gemstones were quite expensive because of how they were marketed to the elite and how the company controlled the distribution, supply, and demand of diamonds.

But even after the A Diamond is Forever slogan was created, diamonds were discovered in other parts of the world, notably in Australia and Russia.

De Beers Diamonds

This meant that De Beers started losing its monopoly on the diamond market because it no longer controlled the distribution of diamonds in the world. For De Beers to maintain some form of control and with knowledge of diamonds found in other African countries like Angola, DRC, and Sierra Leone, De Beers used mercenaries and even cops to get diamonds.

They fueled wars because the instability meant more diamonds for them, but these were blood diamonds because of all the people killed for the diamonds to be mined. It is alleged that De Beers funded these wars, and it’s something that’s since tainted the company.


So, should you buy de beers diamonds?

De Beers Diamonds

It depends on what you are looking for and your beliefs, but you may want to avoid the brand because of all the controversy that taints the company.

Even though the company claims that only 5% of the diamonds may be tainted, there is no way of knowing if the diamonds you buy are the good ones. The challenge is that there are instances where you may end up buying diamonds by De Beers without your knowledge.



De Beers controlled the diamond trade for decades, but now, they only hold about a 30% stake in diamonds because of all the controversy that has now tainted the brand and the fact that they no longer control the diamonds sold in the world.

Before you buy diamonds from any De Beers brand, you should be aware of the controversy around the name and what that would mean to you.

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