HARRY OPPENHEIMER: 110 YEARS AGO, A LEGEND WAS BORN
Harry Frederick Oppenheimer (1908-2000), born 110 years ago in South Africa, was one of the most prominent figures in the global diamond industry; more than anyone else, Oppenheimer is responsible for associating diamonds with romantic love, and the transformation of diamonds into a symbol of marriage.
Harry was the son of Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, founder of the multinational mining company Anglo American Corporation of South Africa, which took over De Beers after WWI. In 1929, Ernest Oppenheimer became Chairman of De Beers. Over the years his son took over, and under his leadership De Beers became a global leader in diamond mining.
Diamonds are Forever
More than anything else, Harry Oppenheimer is remembered for his contribution to the promotion and marketing of polished diamonds. In the mid-1930s, he persuaded his father and the company that they should advertise their polished stones – an innovative suggestion that was initially met with opposition. While some argued that advertising would degrade the image of diamonds, young Oppenheimer initiated a revolutionary marketing concept: Diamonds as a symbol of romantic love.
In this way was born an historic marketing campaign. In 1938, together with N. W. Ayer & Son, an advertising company headquartered in Philadelphia, De Beers launched its first campaign to market polished diamonds and diamond jewelry to the masses.
The most memorable campaign was launched in 1947, when a female employee of N. W. Ayer composed the slogan “A Diamond is Forever”. Over the years, it was voted as one of the most successful marketing slogans of the 20th century.
Oppenheimer’s contribution to the branding of a diamond as a symbol of love became a central theme in marketing the precious stones. It has taken such deep roots, that even today, most marriage proposals are accompanied by a diamond ring.
By: Iris Hortman