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.

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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-cheek. But still …)

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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.
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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.

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

JCK News Director