By Michelle Graff
I remember there being a bit of a buzz in Las Vegas earlier this year when De Beers announced the return of “A Diamond is Forever.” The company followed up with the announcement that it was dusting off its old “Seize the Day” campaign to do, as Rob Bates sagely observed, “generic advertising with an asterisk.”

Michelle-blogThere is no doubt the diamond industry was in need of a big advertising boost this holiday season and, as it is only mid-December, it’s too early to say how effective these campaigns have been in moving the needle for diamond sales this holiday season.

But the decision to revive old campaigns has made me wonder: is the industry relying too much on the past—A Diamond is Forever is 68 years old at this point—in trying to reach consumers, particularly young consumers, of the present? Does putting a handful of hashtags in an old Seize the Day ad really constitute being forward-thinking and speaking to millennials about what matters to them?

New York-based jewelry designer Kara Ross doesn’t think so.

A few weeks back, after I wrote this blog post about the need to incorporate more about the good diamonds do into the marketing of the stones, Ross reached out to tell me about her new initiative, which aims to change the conversation about who buys diamonds for whom, and why.

She said she got the idea for her new business after she redid her engagement ring mounting into a snake shape, put it on her right hand and started asking herself, Why, in this era of increasing social and financial independence for women, do we still feel that we have to wait for someone to buy us a diamond?

The answer she came up with is that women shouldn’t feel that way.

The designer shut down her wholesale business, save a few one-of-kind pieces and handbags she’ll still sell in her Madison Avenue store, and launched Diamonds Unleashed.

Yes, I am aware that this is not the first time a diamond industry marketing initiative has emphasized the idea of female self-purchasing, e.g., the right-hand right. But Ross’s initiative has a number of interesting angles and is launching at a time when many young women are reviving the fight for equal rights. (See the actress Jennifer Lawrence’s recent essay on the gender pay gap in Hollywood.)

[caption id="attachment_3666" align="alignleft" width="589"]Diamonds-Unleashed-rotator Two of the rings Ross designed for Diamonds Unleashed[/caption]

Diamonds Unleashed is a line of jewelry (and other products, though jewelry is the main focus for now) manufactured by Diarough in India and sold in Ross’s store, on HSN (retail $99 to $2,000) and in Neiman Marcus ($750 to $10,000). Beginning in spring 2016, the line will begin using CanadaMark diamonds exclusively.

The line also has a charitable element. Like Toms Shoes and Warby Parker, two companies Ross admires, a portion of the sales go directly to one of two charity partners, both of which are female focused: She’s the First provides scholarships to girls in low-income countries, and Girls Who Code works to inspire young girls to pursue careers in computer science.

And then there’s the educational angle; Ross said she is planning a series of discussions on the modern-day women’s movement in major markets across the United States that will begin in 2016.

Ross said she is not trying to change the association diamonds have with love and marriage but, rather, to broaden the scope of why we buy diamonds, and to make women see that the words so often used to describe diamonds—strong, beautiful, multi-faceted, unbreakable—also apply to them.

Her long-term goal for Diamonds Unleashed is for its symbol—which is purposefully blue and pink to denote the need to mobilize men on women’s issues—to become synonymous with women’s empowerment, in the same way the pink ribbon is universally recognized in the fight against breast cancer.

“When you see this symbol,” she said, “you will know it’s about women’s empowerment.”

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