Rising to the top of the $30 billion U.S. jewelry industry is no small feat. While history and quality certainly play an instrumental role in reputation, these witty taglines and strategic public relations moves transformed these five jewelers into cultural icon brands.
A Diamond is Forever
"No other jeweler has had a greater influence on the American psyche than De Beers Jewellery," according to Joseph DuMouchelle, chief appraiser at DuMouchelle Exchange. Founded in 1871, the company’s 1947 “A Diamond is Forever” marketing campaign is singlehandedly responsible for the popular practice of using diamond engagement rings as a symbol of eternal love and steadfast commitment.
Suffering from two decades of decline, in 1938, Germany-based De Beers hired famed advertising agency N.W. Ayer & Son in Philadelphia to promote its diamonds to A-list actresses and fashion designers as the next big trend. By 1941, diamond sales surged 55 percent. At the encouragement of romantic last goodbye and patriotic De Beers ads, departing WWII soldiers adopted the diamond solitaire as a symbol of their pledge to come home to the women they loved. By the mid-1960s, nearly 80 percent of American men unveiled a diamond ring when proposing.
De Beers is also responsible for the old adage that a quality engagement ring is worth two to three months’ salary. According to The Knot, the average modern man spends $5,200 on an engagement ring.
The “A Diamond is Forever” tagline has been translated into 29 languages for official ad campaigns, and it is the title for a popular James Bond movie and book. Honored in 2000 by Ad Age as the best advertising slogan created in the 20th century, the print and television campaigns typically feature ambiguous, shadowy characters wearing shimmering diamonds.
The Best Place in the World
Already prized among New York’s wealthiest families, including the Astors and Vanderbilts, from the moment “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was released in 1961, Tiffany & Co. became a cultural phenomenon. Few can forget Audrey Hepburn’s character, Holly Golightly, declaring that Tiffany’s is “the best place in the world, where nothing bad can take place.”
Today, millions of women dream of the enchanting moment when they get to carefully unravel the white bow binding a coveted Tiffany Blue Box. Still, those who cannot afford the luxurious jewels are content to gaze at the fantastical window displays of the polished granite flagship store, which has occupied the glitzy corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan since 1940. Tiffany’s describes the renowned displays as “miniature worlds of fantasy, beauty and whit that mix the extraordinary with the ordinary.”
From supplying swords for the American Civil War and designing the New York Yankees’ logo to fabricating the White House china and crafting the Super Bowl’s Vince Lombardi Trophy, Tiffany’s is embedded in the American culture.
It Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking
The most successful campaign in the 158-year history of Timex is the slogan “It Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking,” which was created by Julian Koenig of Hirshon Garfield. The tagline appeared in a series of commercials from the 1950s through the 1970s featuring trustworthy newsman John Cameron Swayze commentating on torture tests performed on Timex watches, a technique that real Timex salesmen used when peddling the durable timepieces. The exaggerated commercials featured high divers, snow skiers, jackhammers, outboards, ice cubes and even Mickey Mantle’s baseball bat.
Founded in 1854, Timex Corporation was a pioneer in creating rugged wristwatches for the masses. First developed for WWII soldiers, by 1962, one out of every three watches sold in the U.S. was a Timex, according to a 1963 article in Time Magazine.
After a yearlong advertising hiatus, Timex revived the torture test campaign in 1999. The spoofs on the classic product demonstrations included tests on the Timex Run Trainer and Turn ‘n’ Pull Alarm watch.
Jeweler of the Kings
Declared by Edward VII, Prince of Wales, at the turn of the 20th century as “Joaillier des Rois, Roi des Joailliers” (Jeweller of the Kings, King of Jewellers), Cartier has rightfully earned its nickname. Since 1856, the French jewelry and wristwatch company has outfitted European royalty in stunning jewels and striking crowns from 12 courts, including Spain, Greece, Egypt, Russia and Monaco. Most recently, Princess Kate Middleton wore a 1936 Cartier tiara on her wedding day.
Each delicate piece of Cartier jewelry is presented in a distinctive red leather box inscribed with gold lettering. The panther also become an important emblem for Cartier thanks to jeweler Jeanne Toussaint, whose nickname was The Panther. In 1914, Cartier introduced the Panth?re line, which included necklaces, pendants, brooches and rings. Toussaint further expanded the line in the 1930s, including a $2 million diamond, emerald and onyx panther bracelet crafted especially for the Duchess of Windsor in 1952.
In 2012, the famed brand released “L'Odyssée de Cartier,” a three and half minute epic shown in select movie theaters, to promote the history, values, inspiration and artistic scope of the jeweler’s 165-year history. Described as an innovator by those in the industry, Cartier is credited with creating the first men’s flat wristwatch, mystery clocks, baguette watches, invisible stone mounts and the tank watch.
Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend
Although it was not sponsored by a specific jeweler, no other pop culture entry has had a greater influence on the entire diamond industry than the Jule Styne-Leo Robin song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Recognized by the American Film Institute as the 12th most important movie song in the 20th century, the homage to Tiffany’s, Cartier and Harry Winston cemented each jeweler’s A-list status.
Performed by Hollywood’s leading starlets, from Ethel Merman, Carol Channing and Lena Horne to Madonna, Beyoncé and Kylie Minogue, no one has managed to outshine the iconic depiction delivered by Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” The song resurfaced with great success in 1985 when Madonna borrowed the theme for her “Material Girl” music video and again in 2001 when Nicole Kidman appeared in the blockbuster hit “Moulin Rouge.”