Antique dealers, designers and retailers reveal favorite Jewelry Appearances on The Silver Screen
Ever since I was a young girl of 8, I have been mesmerized by movies and the magic that happens on the Silver Screen. Yet many of the first films I watched were shown on NBC or ABC’s nights at the movies during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. I first watched To Catch a Thief and Breakfast at Tiffany’s on my grandmother’s television set, while pretending Canada Dry Ginger Ale was champagne and getting dressed up in her real and faux jewels. My mother, who also loved films, turned me on to The Women and Stage Fright, among many other movies from the late ‘30s through early ‘60s. The productions during these years created icons of style and they provided inspiration for a young girl who loved all things sparkly to emulate. As I grew older, I began to love films with jewelry as part of the plotline or pieces that would help develop a character. And, so I memorized the jewels, costumes and lines from my favorite films, watching them in all formats—from VHS to DVDs, on TCM and on cable and whenever there was a retrospective on the big screen.
During my 18 years as a jewelry journalist, I wrote columns for different magazines on new period films with jewelry that might start a trend or famous or independent designers who lent or created pieces for the movies. I also interviewed the many award-winning costume designers who were responsible for the entire look from head-to-toe.
Last year, roles were reversed and I was interviewed for the book I wrote that had been stirring inside of me since I was young, If These Jewels Could Talk: The Legends Behind Celebrity Jewels (ACC Artbooks 2015) which includes some of my favorite anecdotes, jewelry icons and renowned jewelers. The magazine writer interviewing me asked about my favorite films. I realized that this was an extremely difficult question to answer since I had so many.
for some favorites,please click here Cartier Steals the Scene)
Around the same time the book was about to hit the shelves, Mia Moross, the brilliant creator of the now ubiquitous jewelry website, theoneilovenyc.com, revealed that she shares my passion for jewelry and films. She had the ingenious idea of asking jewelry friends on Instagram to add a post for a hashtag she created #silverscreengems. When I read the posts, I was thrilled to see so many of our growing community join in and choose some films I didn’t have on my original extremely long list. It’s always wonderful to share knowledge and information and incredible ‘gem candy’. I thought it would be a great idea to take that hashtag and expand it into a story. Mia agreed.
Now that the credits have rolled, let’s sit back and relax and enjoy the jewelry show!
Mia Moross, @theoneilovenyc (Owner: Theoneilovenyc.com)
Anna Karenina 2012
“There is something about cinema that can take us to another time and place. But I will also watch a film even if the only part I am excited about is the jewelry. Of all the movies with insane gems, Anna Karenina stole the spotlight for me. Most interesting, though, is that the jewels were not of the period but were what the costume designer Jacqueline Durran chose to re-create for the period of 19th century high society Russia. Normally this would annoy me, but for this adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel, it completely worked. The majority of the jewelry was loaned by Chanel, such as the necklaces that include the opulent jewels for Keira Knightley (in the leading role).”
Alison Barry @Duvenay (antique jewelry dealer: duvenay.com)
Marie Antoinette (2006)
“This was definitely a favorite of mine. The Fred Leighton jewels were so in character – luxurious, but youthful and unabashedly pretty and sensual, as opposed to ‘royal’, And, I remember she wears a diamond ring on her pointer finger which really struck me. I think only people that truly love jewelry do that, and it gave the jewelry a more lived in, personal, and modern feel, which is what I believe Sofia Copola was going for with this remake— in the contemporary take on the costumes, colors and casting of the film.”
Eden Daniels , @theedencollective (fashionstylist and antique dealer, The Eden Collective)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) –
“It was perhaps the first film that inspired me to experiment with wearing jewels out of context, i.e. a brooch in my hair like Audrey Hepburn, who was my style icon my senior year of high school. (I still have my collection of vintage rhinestone brooches from then). I was very into ‘60s vintage and I think everything I owned came from a thrift store. I remember trying to get a pearl necklace to lie along the back of my neckline like Audrey as Holly Golightly wore her faux pearl and make it stay that way—walking around with a pronounced backwards lean.”
Note: Although Audrey’s Hepburn’s Holly Golightly spends much of her time surveying the jewelry windows and displays at Tiffany & Co. and the film turned the Fifth Avenue shop into one of the top tourist attractions in New York City, the pearl necklace that Hepburn wore was a Paramount studio prop and not an authentic Tiffany & Co. pearl necklace
Wendy Smith, @Gemsatourguide (Jewelry Historian-Gems: a tour guide)
The Duchess (2008)
“I adore period films, as I know many jewelry lovers do, especially when they capture a time period authentically through costume, jewelry and production design. I have many favorites, but one film that really blew me away was The Duchess starring Keira Knightley & Ralph Fiennes, based on the real life of Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, and her turbulent marriage to her husband, the Duke. The Georgian-era costumes and jewelry in the film are magnificent and beautifully portray the life of the popular, trendsetting and forward-thinking Duchess. From velvet chokers with pearl drops to stunning diamond hair ornaments and an amazing cut steel parure – there is enough ‘gem’ candy to last for days! It’s no surprise that Michael O’Connor won the Academy Award for best costume design for the film in 2009.”
Joanne Teichman, @ylang23 (Co-Owner with husband Charles, Ylang 23)
A Perfect Murder, (1998)
“One of my favorites for the jewelry is A Perfect Murder, which is a remake of Hitchcock’s 1954’s Dial M for Murder. It stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Emily Taylor. Her clothes are streamlined perfection and her jewelry is elegant simplicity—pearls, diamond riviere, diamond solitaire earrings, which totally captures the young wealthy Upper East Side wife of that time period and in which the movie take place. But it’s the Cathy Waterman wedding band that is the jewelry star of the film and is actually a huge part of the plot, beginning when Emily leaves it on her lover’s night table. The costume designer could have gone with a huge engagement ring or something more ‘traditional’ (in keeping with the other jewelry) but this was a wonderful twist: a wide leaf and flower platinum and diamond band, which after the film, Cathy put into her collection.”
Note: Cathy Waterman redesigned a few of her thinner diamond and platinum leaf and floral rings to create this wedding band, which gets a close-up in the film.
Samantha Knight, @samanthaknightjewelry (designer, Samantha Knight Jewelry)
Moulin Rouge (2001)
“This is my all time favorite movie. I love the music, the costumes, the scenery and of course the jewelry. The ornate wide diamond scroll-y bib/collar necklace worn by Nicole Kidman as Sateen is definitely a departure from my understated sense of style, but I think that’s why it appeals to my alter ego. Everything in that movie is wonderfully over the top!”
Note: Stefano Canturi designed the necklace, which was inspired by the embellished styles of the jewels during the reign of Louis XVI . It is comprised of approximately 1,300 diamonds and its weight is 134 karats.
Jennifer Ha, @Dupkaspike (avid collector and editor for research organization)
Gone With the Wind (1939)
“This epic film has no jewel-centric plot like To Catch a Thief, nor does the jewelry even have a supporting role like the large sapphire and diamond pendant in Titanic. What it does have however, through small glimpses, and excellent costuming, is a look at the role jewelry played in the life of a Civil War-era lady. The film opens with Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) as a girl of 16: her jewelry is demure; even if her behavior isn’t. At the barbecue when Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) overhears Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) reject her and later teases her for it, she wears a lovely coral festoon necklace, designed in the shape of a flower. She also wears a perfect pair of Etruscan revival-style earrings in another scene. During a dance there is a gold drive for the war effort, and she slips off her simple gold band into the pile. My favorite jewel moment in the movie comes much later, however, when Rhett asks Scarlet what kind of engagement ring she would like. Never to shy away from anything attention grabbing and flashy, Scarlett says this: “A diamond ring. And do buy a great big one, Rhett.” To which Rhett replies, “You shall have the biggest and the most vulgar ring in Atlanta.”
Note: One other piece that shares the spotlight with Vivien Leigh in the film and perfectly in keeping with time period is an oversized cameo brooch, which reportedly belonged to the costume designer’s mother, and was lent for the classic Victorian mourning scene.
Nicholle Mogavero, @jewelrynerd (Blogger: Jewelry Nerd)
To Catch A Thief (1955)
“When I want a movie with a little glitter, I watch To Catch A Thief . Cary Grant is the perfect leading man; Grace Kelly is always stunning and who can say no to a good Hitchcock film? Top it all off with panoramic views of the French Riviera, an over-the-top masked ball and it’s a winning combination. My favorite scene involves John Robie (Grant) a once famous cat burglar who is a suspect in recent robberies. He realizes that that the Riviera’s new jewel thief is targeting wealthy tourist’s jewels. He sits in a restaurant watching Francie Stevens (Grace Kelly) and her mother Jessie Stephens (Jessie Royce Landis), an oil heiress, talk to an insurance agent. The insurance agent asks, “Wouldn’t it be better if you left some of that jewelry in the hotel safe?” Jessie admonishes him by replying, “I didn’t buy these things for my old age, I bought them to wear!” She’s clearly a woman after my own heart. Her neck is ablaze in diamonds; she wears a gigantic brooch, flashy earrings, a rock as big as the Blarney Stone on her hand and two matching bracelets on each wrist. Sigh. I want to be that crazy old heiress dripping in jewels one day.”
Elizabeth Doyle, @Elizabethndoyle (Co-owner Doyle & Doyle)
Gosford Park (2001),
I love all eras in jewelry but when it comes to period films, I am partial to this movie, which offers a view of the ‘upstairs/downstairs’ society popular in the aristocracy of England. This movie also has a murder mystery to solve (probably the weakest part of the film) and some seriously gorgeous Art Deco jewelry. You can see the different styles of this time period of gems during the party scene in which all of the ‘upstairs’ actresses’ characters are in one room. There is a range in Art Deco, which I have a real affinity fo—from the very streamlined and geometric to the swingy earrings and sautoirs with movement and flexible pile on bracelets. These styles help to define each of the star-studded characters in Gosford Park.
Note: Costume Designer Jenny Beaven chose jewels from Chanel and antique pieces from London’s Tessier for the impeccable styling of the jewelry for the film.
Susan Cohen @Circa1700 (Screenwriter and Owner of the jewelry company Circa 1700)
The Young Victoria (2009)
“For a lover of antique gems, this movie is literally jewelry porn. The gems not only captivate, but capture the early Victorian era of jewelry to perfection. And it’s almost impossible to choose one standout piece. Emily Blunt as Queen Victoria as well as the other actresses in almost every scene are dripping in treasures of that time period. But, if I were forced to choose one piece, it would be the three-tier drop pearl and diamond earrings, which were designed in the Victorian style for the film. Now, if only I could step into the screen and grab those beauties right off of Emily Blunt’s ears!”
Note: Sandy Powell has won Academy Awards for costume design for three period films, one of them for The Young Victoria in 2010, and has been nominated numerous times for her dazzling work. For The Young Victoria, she said that she scoured the Internet and purchased authentic antiques online and through dealers. She also engaged the help of Andrew Prince, who created pieces in the style of the day such as the tiara for the film as well as the earrings Susan talks about among other styles for various actresses in the movie.
Now for an extremely short list of some of my all-time favorite old and somewhat new films, chosen for the jewelry and more:
– Desire (1936): Marlene Dietrich in her Trabert & Hoeffer- Mauboussin emerald bracelet as a jewel thief.
–Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), (These were both other favorites of Eden Daniels as well). We both love the elaborate Renaissance-style jewels.
–Holiday (1938) is one of my favorite romantic comedies and also love the Paul Flato and Verdura for Flato jewels including the Flato sign language brooch and the Flato dangling diamond pinky ring—so ahead of its time, as well as other brooches and the riviere necklace. (Alison Barry @Duvenay also chose this in addition to Marie Antoinette)
–Stage Fright (1950( : Marlene Dietrich in her masterpiece of Van Cleef & Arpels jewels and those also loaned by Cartier to the film
–The Women (1939)—For all of the stars shining in the film: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard and Joan Fontaine wearing much of their own jewelry, and for its crackling dialogue and being able to pull off a film which is all about men with no male actors. It was adapted from the long running play by Claire Boothe Luce and adapted for the screen by director George Cukor and screenwriters Anita Loos and Janie Murfin.
The are so many more, which will be revealed in future articles, but for now I have two to contribute to this article which I will keep brief by just concentrating on the jewelry:
This film has a truly classic movie scene in which Ginger (Sharon Stone) is lying on her bed surrounded by a fur coat and a treasure trove of jewelry that Bulgari lent for the film. Who wouldn’t want to lie in between oodles of fine jewelry created by one of the most renowned houses? And the film itself was one Scorsese’s best since Mean Streets.
The film that is a tie for me is
An Ideal Husband (1999) based on Oscar Wilde’s play. I could almost miss the jewelry (but not really) while trying to keep up with the witty dialogue. The jewels were a veritable feast for the eye— particularly Lady Gertrude Chiltern’s (Cate Blanchett’s) pendants, lavalieres, brooches, diadem and earrings as well as Mrs. Laura Cheveley’s (Julianne Moore) suites of late 19th century and turn-of-the-century jewels. The entire cast, including Minnie Driver as Miss Mable Chiltern, wear pieces that impeccably depict the time period in which the film is set. Caroline Harris, costume designer for the film, borrowed jewels from both De Beers and Asprey.