Diamonds: Cultural Representations and Transformations of a "Girl's Best Friend"

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Virginia Tech


The great success of the advertising industry in the 1950s created a diamond culture where diamonds are continuously associated with images of love and devotion. With all of the diamond's positive associations, no one could have imagined that such a precious jewel could have negative connotations. Yet in the 1990s, the label "blood diamond" emerged and became widely correlated with torture, rape, child labor, and environmental destruction. My three- manuscript dissertation covers the following topics: how diamond jewelry has become ingrained in American consumer culture, how lab-made diamond substitutes create new politics, and how diamonds created from ashes complicate consumers' relationship with diamond jewelry. These three manuscripts cover a series of interconnected ideas about symbolism and imagery of the diamond. In the first manuscript I present a history of how advertisements have influenced American consumer culture. The second manuscript elaborates on the themes established in the first manuscript by examining the political nature of lab-made diamonds in relation to American consumer culture. And finally, in the third manuscript the images presented in the first manuscript become even more complicated when the end product is literally made from ashes. Lab-made diamonds challenge traditional images of natural stones in a way that forces consumers to confront, and perhaps revise, the way they think about diamonds.



Diamonds, Consumer Culture, Philanthropic Consumption, Lab-made