The Two Month Salary Guideline

Via Andrew Sullivan’s popular blog, artist Lee Gainer has done an artistic rendering of the “two month salary guideline” for diamonds.

Now, while Gainer claims the guideline was invented in the 40s, it was actually introduced in the 90s, when the then all-powerful De Beers saw it as a way to boost the “average price” for engagement ring. (And no, it never specified “gross” or “net.”) Commercials asked: “How else can two months salary last forever?” And a print ad suggested, rather shamelessly: “Spend less and the relatives will talk.” (It was done tounge-in-check. But still …)

We don’t hear too much about the “two month salary guideline” these days – and in this environment, it’s almost quaint to think about getting people to “trade up” their rings. De Beers has basically given up promoting it, and I would argue it doesn’t really fit in with the more benevolent modern image it is trying to promote – and, of course, it’s cut back its generic promotion regardless. Still its web site does have this “two month salary guideline” calculator. (I plugged my salary into that calculator. All I can say is: Keep dreaming, guys.) And I’ve seen it on many jewelers’ web sites.

So, did the “guideline” work? In Entrepreneur recently, it was described as “widely accepted by the public.” People certainly know about it. Yet it led to a bit of a backlash, and was referenced disparagingly on The Simpsons and in Blood DiamondJCK focus group participants described it as “unfair, pretentious, and unrealistic.” And honestly, the idea that the industry could invent a guideline for how much to spend on its products took more than a little chutzpah.  

Be interested in reader comments on this. Do people still use it?

JCK News Director