Diamonds Aren’t A Girl’s Best Friend In Sierra Leone

Some people know it, but some people don’t. The advertising industry is almost singlehandedly the reason for the 20th century popularity of diamond engagement rings. NW Ayer, now out of business, was the agency responsible for ad campaigns and product placements on behalf of De Beers.
However, a new movie is calling attention to the seamy underbelly of the diamond industry. Fortune magazine has more:

The conflict, which has rocked the industry in recent years, may reach fever pitch this month with the release of the movie “Blood Diamond.” Set in wartime Sierra Leone during the late 1990s, the film depicts a South African diamond smuggler, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, trying to recover a rare pink stone from a local fisherman whom rebels have forced to dig in the diamond pits.
In the 1990s rebels in Sierra Leone and Liberia financed their carnage from diamonds plucked out of the rivers and traded for arms. During a decade of war about 50,000 people were killed, and thousands had their hands hacked off by rebels.
Months before it opened, the movie had garnered media attention, aided by a marketing blitz by Warner Bros. and a $15 million counterattack by the World Diamond Council, an organization founded by more than 50 producers and dealers to end illegal diamond trading.

So, will consumers truly care whether the diamonds they purchase are so-called “conflict-free” diamonds?

Consumers cannot be sure which diamonds are blood diamonds. And therein lies the potential for a boycott, especially since synthetic diamonds now look close to the real thing. “Diamonds are a luxury, so we depend completely on the consumer’s faith,” says Rory More O’Ferrall, director of external affairs for De Beers. “Anything that affects the integrity of that we need to address.”

It’ll be interesting to see if the image of diamonds, created over so many decades, can take a tumble with this sort of publicity.



About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.