This is truly astounding. It bends the mind in a Philip K Dick-like way … I realized that advertising and mass media were powerful, but when you see concrete examples like this, it’s disturbing.
This is an article from 1982 in the Atlantic Monthly that explains why, even with the glut of diamonds from South Africa, they still command such high prices, and such cultural importance (at least in many places).
The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life. To stabilize the market, De Beers had to endow these stones with a sentiment that would inhibit the public from ever reselling them. The illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever — “forever” in the sense that they should never be resold.