Before De Beers began selling diamonds, shoppers rarely purchased diamond engagement rings. Most engagement rings sold before the late 1800s and early 1900s used emeralds, rubies and other stones. Everything changed when Cecil Rhodes discovered a large diamond while working in South Africa. After switching careers and opening the De Beers Consolidated Mines, he worked with a man by the name of Barney Barnato. The two quickly took over the diamond mining operations in the region. At the end of the 1890s, Rhodes worked out a deal with a London company that sold his diamonds at a set price to others. As the company grew, it became the top diamond company in the world.
Nicky Oppenheimer now serves as the chairman of De Beers, while Philippe Mellier is the CEO. The company has more than 20,000 employees, and it reported revenue of more than $6 billion in 2012 alone. Much of the success of the company relies on the marketing campaigns it used over the years. In the 1940s, it launched the campaign titled “A Diamond is Forever,” which highlighted the importance of giving women diamonds. Many believe that if it weren’t for this campaign, the world of engagement rings would look quite differently today.
The company is also responsible for the popularity of the eternity ring, which highlights the importance of everlasting love, and the company also introduced the right hand ring to the public. The right hand ring helped the company bounce back from low sales by showing women that they didn’t need someone else to buy them a diamond. In the 2000s, the company announced that it would only sell diamonds mined by its own operations, in part because of the controversy surrounding so-called blood diamonds. Despite a decrease in revenue in recent years, De Beers remains one of the largest diamond companies in the world, making and selling jewelry that includes eternity bands, engagement rings, right hand rings and trilogy rings.
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