What Is Desirable?

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In the late nineteenth century, the discovery of diamond mines in South Africa quickly became a tremendous threat to the diamond industry. The market was becoming flooded with diamonds, but Cecil Rhodes founded De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. in 1888, a family company representing all of the diamond mines in South Africa. Throughout the twentieth century, DeBeers used tight control of the market and very effective marketing strategies to maintain dominance. The slogan “A diamond is forever” originated in 1947, and was followed by a marked increase in the number of engagement rings featuring diamonds, as well as the association of the size of a diamond with love and status. Nowhere was the effectiveness of DeBeers’ marketing more apparent than in Japan, which did not have a tradition of diamond engagement rings: five percent of brides wore diamonds in 1967. However, DeBeers’ efforts brought that share up to 60 percent by 1981. In the past decade, De Beers has lost its stranglehold on the diamond market–Anglo American plc acquired a 40 percent stake in DeBeers in 2011. Increased awareness of conflict diamonds also contributed to changes in public perceptions of diamonds. However, it is extraordinarily remarkable what DeBeers was able to achieve to essentially manufacture a romantic tradition. Because diamonds are not in fact as rare as they are perceived to be, they are poor investments for individuals, who cannot usually make money from reselling a diamond. Despite this, diamonds remain highly desirable due to the cultural significance they have acquired.

Source: Epstein, Edward Jay. “Have You Ever Tried to Sell A Diamond?”~\emph{The Atlantic},~Feb 1982. Web.


Although it is are not a physical product, music can prove very successful in inspiring devotion among a wide population. While an early example of fan fervor for a musician occurred in the nineteenth century, when the word \emph{Lisztomania} was coined to frenzied reactions to performances of Franz Liszt, the most famous example is probably the \emph{Beatlemania} of the 1960s. Since The Beatles, the “-mania” suffix has been applied to many other bands. It is interesting to examine why some bands have become so successful, and to what extent the fandom is actually inspired by the musicians themselves and what part of it is strengthened by the community it creates among fans, regardless of the object of devotion. The Beatles remain the best-selling band in history–why has their success endured so pervasively?

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