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The diamond industry, trying to lure new customers, turns to platonic relationships

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The diamond industry would like you to buy something for your friend. People traditionally buy diamonds when they get married, but marriage rates are falling. And Jaya Saxena writes in The Atlantic that this affects the diamond market.

JAYA SAXENA: Over the past few years, it's certainly been time for the diamond industry to look at different strategies.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

OK, let's go back. Why do people buy a diamond to get married to begin with? Saxena says that's because almost a hundred years ago, the diamond company DeBeers advertised a diamond ring as essential to wedding proposals. They even decided that ring should cost two months of a man's salary. In the 1980s came a campaign to convince women to buy diamonds for their husbands. And still later, the industry encouraged women to buy diamonds for themselves. Now the industry has set its sights on friends.

SAXENA: There's an ad from Jared where two sisters are sitting next to each other. The ad's in black and white, and they're talking to the camera.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: This necklace is truly a new piece of my soul.

SAXENA: The crux of the ad is that they've chosen to honor that relationship with diamond necklaces.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: And I knew that it was what I longed for my entire life.

SAXENA: And Jared is encouraging women to honor these sorts of relationships with diamond jewelry.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Every occasion deserves love. Jared - love brilliantly.

INSKEEP: Piece of my soul. Apparently, it's no longer enough to buy your friend lunch.

SAXENA: If you're saying that you can honor sisterhood and friendship, they want to show that you should be honoring any kind of relationship with a diamond.

MARTIN: Notably, the ads encourage the buyer to look closely at the diamond and a little less closely at its origins.

SAXENA: I think once you start learning about the diamond industry, you see that perhaps a diamond, while beautiful, isn't necessarily the rare, valuable, singular object that diamond merchants are making it out to be.

INSKEEP: Having given these ads some thought, Saxena is saving her money.

SAXENA: I don't think this campaign is particularly working on me. I don't think my friends necessarily want diamond pendants. I think they're more interested in some other things.

INSKEEP: Her article is called "Diamonds Are For Girls' Best Friend." So, Michel, you buying diamonds for a friend anytime soon?

MARTIN: Steve, I have two kids in college. They need to buy me one.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) I'm sure they will soon.

MARTIN: Eventually.

INSKEEP: I'm sure they will soon. OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DIAMONDS ARE A GIRLS BEST FRIEND")

MARILYN MONROE: (As Lorelei Lee) Tiffany's. Cartier. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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