Jewelry In Film: Finding The Next Trend Setting Jewel
Whenever I hear about a new film release or a new series on Netflix or cable, I think about what the next ‘sleeper’ jewel will be. I have done much research on the subject of jewelry on the big and small screen. During my 20 years as a jewelry journalist, I wrote columns for different magazines on new films and period dramas in which jewelry develops and defines the characters and/or sets the time frame. I have covered pieces which have created major trends in the industry and the famous or independent designers who lent or designed pieces for the movies. I also interviewed the many award-winning costumes and prop designers who were responsible for the entire look from head-to-toe and helped to represent the motives and personalities of each role in the film.
In my book “If These Jewels Could Talk: The Legend Behind Celebrity Gems” (which as a jewelry and film geek had been stirring inside me since I was young) I went back in Hollywood’s history through present-day and covered these different topics and more. I also discussed who wore the jewels they owned in film and why, and the renowned jewelers of the time who created the jewels that featured on screen. When I launched Bejeweledmag.com after two years of prep work, I began to cover this topic with new films again in my Screen Gems sections of the magazine. There are many different stories which you can read discussing past and more current films in this section.
As jewelry enthusiasts, we all have one or more favorite films that feature pieces that keep us watching again and again. And, there are certain images are seared in our minds- such as Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s,Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief or Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Oddly enough none of the jewelry that these iconic roles were real—however the way these actresses wore them continue to influence our collective consciousness and will for generations to come.
In Hollywood’s heyday, leading actresses inspired popular jewelry tastes by choosing to wear their own favorite gems in movies. These films provide us with a rare glimpse of the styles of the great jewelers of the times, who were designing for these highly sought-after women who could choose anything they desired and did more than any advertising campaign could do to create demand. Large star sapphires engagement rings and faceted and sapphire jewels worn on and off-screen by screen sirens such as Mary Pickford, Gene Harlow, Carol Lombard, Myrna Loy and Gene Harlow and the emeralds worn by Gene Harlow influenced woman to go out and purchase similar styles.
But let’s fast forward toward more current times. As I tune into new series and go to film previews, my thoughts veer towards the last time we had a piece or time period of jewelry seen on the small or big screen that took over an industry and became popular at all different price levels and demographics. These come along less frequently than the pieces that help to set the stage or advance the plot or the personality of the character.
Will the Downton Abby movie, to be released on September 20, 2019, continue to influence jewelry the way the series impacted trends like it did during its sixth season run? Will we all be walking around in tiaras and diadems? Perhaps not, but toned down hair jewelry has already started coming into its own. As far as the series, I personally loved seeing the changes from the first season which began in 1912 and took the cast and us through to 1925 when it ended. Not only did Julian Fellowes, the writers and the characters give us a taste of the changes of the times but the costumes and jewelry reflected it to perfection, led by the two costume designers Caroline McCall (seasons one through four) and Anna Mary Scott Robbins (seasons five and six). The jewelry from season four on had the most impact and set low to high trends for antique inspired and a renewed interest in Early 20th century jewels with a mix of Edwardian and early Art Deco pieces, ranging from the more sedate daytime jewels of the periods to the more ornate and opulent pieces. Judging from the attention to detail displayed during the series, the film will have all of the necessary adornments to create new trends and must-have items like the series did from 2010-2015. Stay tuned to learn about the custom designer and the jewelry that will be worn in the film as we get a little closer to release date.
Here are some from the past that featured real jewels impacted the jewelry industry and which some of you will remember and might have even invested in yourselves.
Madonna arrived on the music scene with her navel-baring, leather and lace-inspired feminine punk-goth girl styles. This look defined an era. In 1985, after starring in a few music videos, the singer hit the big screen in Desperately Seeking Susan, a comedic and romantic romp with a mystery involving a stolen earring. Madonna played ‘Susan’, a version of herself, while Rosanna Arquette was ‘Roberta’, wanting to emulate Madonna in the film—as did girls throughout the world—piling on rubber and charm bracelets, layered crosses, and ropes of chains and beads. This was street style at its best, inexpensive and with a look that launched a career and the first #neckmess #pileiton trends. Soon afterward Madonna repackaged herself as a ‘Material Girl’, with a twist on the screen sirens of the 1950s such as Monroe/Lorelei Lee, proving the cyclical nature of many jewelry trends and the enduring style of our most iconic celebrities.
THE ‘TIN CUP’ NECKLACE
There are those sleeper items in films that are never expected to be the next big thing or to take over the jewelry industry—translated by various companies at every price point and in every incarnation imaginable. Such was the case of the necklace named after the 1996 film Tin Cup, starring Rene Russo as golfer ‘Dr. Molly Griswold’ and Kevin Costner who plays ‘Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy’, a former golf prodigy who drinks, hangs out and has little ambition until he falls for Molly after giving her a golf lesson. The ‘Tin Cup’ necklace is a cultured pearl station-style, which was made for the film by Wendy Brigode, with 7–8mm baroque Japanese pearls knotted on silk string widely spaced apart giving them the appearance of floating. This look as worn by Russo brought back pearls in a way not hinted at since the days of Grace Kelly. Imitations in freshwater pearls and glass pearls on string and chains spread throughout the industry. Television shows such as Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210 and Seinfield featured versions of it. And magazines, particularly bridal publications, reported that the necklace not only made a great alternative to classic pearl strands but was also suitable for gifts for bridesmaids. The trend heated up for the next two years, and Brigode sold her more expensive versions even though the less costly copies were also flying out of the jewelry cases and displays. Women of all ages and backgrounds could easily wear a version of the necklace.
THE LUCK OF THE SEX AND THE CITY JEWELS
Can any of us forget when Sarah Jessica Parker in her role as Carrie Bradshaw wore her first horseshoe pendant and the weeks to come added one then two more horseshoes, layering the look? The company at the time responsible for working with Patricia Field, (costume designer on the HBO series and then the two films), was a small independent duo of designers who comprised the brand Mia & Lizzie. The Horseshoe Pendant was worn in multiples in small, medium and large versions. It followed the nameplate necklace as one of the most coveted pieces of jewelry that Carrie Bradshaw brought into the spotlight. During the time in which Sarah Jessica Parker wears them on the show, Lizzie Scheck of Mia & Lizzie said in an interview with me for Lustre Magazine, “ Patricia Field was very upfront with us, She said just be ready, you are going to be knocked off. Soon you will even see it for $5 on the street. “But the horseshoe dates back to Victorian times and it wasn’t like we were inventing something brand new. We were creating something that Carrie would wear and that her fans would get right away.” The horseshoe continues as a major trend today with antique brooches and stick pins being converted into charms and pendants and contemporary designers continuing to serve up variations on them. A symbol of luck, the horseshoe facing up brings luck to the wearer and facing down brings luck to everyone else who the wearer comes in contact with. It is one of the trends that has never died.
I could talk about the jewelry on the series Sex & The City for an entire article, which I did (here) for the 20th Anniversary of SATC
THE SATC ENGAGEMENT RING THAT STUCK
But let’s talk about a piece in the film Sex and the City 2. After ten years of their on-and-off relationship and then finally getting married, ‘Big’ (Chris Noth) gives ‘Carrie’ something she had said she never wanted before: an engagement ring. The 5-carat black diamond set in 18K white gold with pavé diamonds was created by jewelry designer Itay Malkin, who worked in collaboration with Sarah Jessica Parker and costume designer Patricia Field on the final design. In the script, Carrie asks why a black diamond, to which Big replies: “Because you’re not like anyone else.”
Black diamond rings quickly became must-haves in various sizes and settings. Malkin also produced identical versions of the ring in a limited-edition series retailing at $10,000 each. Other small, independent designers, as well as manufacturers and large houses, also set their black diamond options into rings after the film came out. Since then, the gem has become more acceptable in engagement rings and everyday jewelry.
A DIAMOND OF ANOTHER COLOR
The Harry Winston 84-carat canary yellow diamond set with different cuts of white diamonds is a necklace that Kate Hudson wears as ‘Andie Anderson’ in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003). Dubbed the ‘Isadora Duncan’, Hudson’s character wears the necklace to dazzling effect with a beautiful yellow, bias-cut satin gown. After the film hit theaters, a 51.94-carat yellow sapphire replica was created and displayed alongside the gown in the 2013 ‘Hollywood Costume’ exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. It also increased more awareness and sales for the color diamond that was already trending and variety in color of yellow diamonds for engagement rings.
THE HEART THAT WON OUR HEARTS
An ornate necklace that went from the screen to street in record time was the necklace worn by Kate Winslet in her role as ‘Rose’ in the 1997 remake of Titanic. In the film, a blue diamond necklace dubbed the ‘Heart of the Ocean’ is given by steel tycoon ‘Caledon Hockley’ to his fiancée ‘Rose’ as an engagement gift. Asprey & Garrard created the necklace for the film, crafted from cubic zirconia and set in white gold. But then, in a twist on jewelry’s history, the faux jewel inspired a real one. Asprey & Garrard made a version composed of a single 170- carat sapphire and sixty-five diamonds—totaling 30 carats. This piece was loaned to Celine Dion to wear for her performance of
My Heart Will Go On, the film’s Oscar-nominated theme song at the 1998 Academy Awards ceremony.
The popularity of the film inspired notable reproductions of the blue diamond necklace. Harry Winston, the house which owned the Hope Diamond, and many other famous gems, designed its own take on the ‘Heart of the Ocean’—Le Cœur de la Mer—using a 15-carat, authentic blue diamond. This was also worn at the 1998 Academy Awards by Gloria Stuart, the actress nominated for playing the elder version of ‘Rose’. Then there were smaller more wearable versions created by manufactures in fine jewelry and the affordable costume ‘fashion’ knock offs that sailed in from China, dropped in from Thailand and other parts of the world.
Memoirs of a Geisha, 2005 took home another one of r Colleen Atwood’s ___awards for best costume design. Neil Lane involved with providing hair ornaments for the film but another jewelry star, well versed in film, shared the spotlight with Lane. Robin Renzi designer of Me & Ro Jewelry created five hair jewels for the movie. At the time of my interview with Robin, before the film’s release, she explained, “I had originally met Colleen when we did the jewelry for Julia Roberts in The Mexican. She called to ask if we wanted to work with her on the hair ornaments for Memoirs and it was both exhilarating and challenging at the same time. We had one month to create the pieces. Colleen explained what she envisioned, sent us some inexpensive combs from Japan and then let us take it from there. I decided on some floral designs that I had worked with in the past but put them together in opulent pieces that would read well on the big screen. Our most ornate pieces consisted of a bouquet of coral and pearls sterling silver and 10K and a comb of tiny seed pearls and buttercup flowers are sewn onto mesh with two silver pieces on each side.” Not only did smaller Asian inspired jewels for the hair become popular that year but Robin Renzi created a collection for Me & Ro that were inspired from the floral motifs from the combs and translated the feeling small and large medallions, engraved rings and earrings which became a hit, selling out in her own shop and multiple retailers throughout the country.
THE TWO GREAT GATSBYS
Decades after the original film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation sent Tiffany & Co. back to its archives, with costume designer Catherine Martin researching the glamour and sleek lines of Jazz Age jewelry. The fit was perfect: F. Scott Fitzgerald had been a client of Tiffany, and Martin found personal correspondence from him in the company’s archives. Additionally, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the brand’s first design director, mixed in the same Long Island circles that are described in the book. Martin believes that having such genuinely exquisite jewelry pieces in the film added “to the characters’ visual development because these pieces reflect their status in society, their wealth and their ability to buy beautiful things” . Additionally, the pieces created for the film not only became the pieces that Tiffany & Co. would create window displays around to promote the film and the jewels but the film gave a new twist to hand jewelry. Martin had a found an illustration from the ’20s that showed a bracelet design with a compact attached to it that sat on top of the hand and fitted with rings. She envisioned the bracelet as a traditional Indian silhouette combined with a pavé diamond daisy medallion, which became the centerpiece. After Carey Mulligan’s ‘Daisy Buchanan’ wore it in a party scene and it was plastered all over the internet, it created a stir in the fine jewelry market for both delicate and bold bracelets that cover the hand, and have rings at the end of them. They continue to flourish in both daintier and bolder versions and are being designed for various sensibilities today.
In the 1974 version of the film, the lead characters are played by Mia Farrow and Robert Redford. They live in this same lavish world of glittering excess, sparkling champagne and shimmering jewels, but this time the jewelry was created by Cartier. The house’s designer Alfred Durante created many of the pieces for Mia Farrow’s wardrobe, including long ropes of pearls, sautoir necklaces, a diamond rivière, and long drop earrings. There were also Cartier brooches and clips and sautoirs worn by Lois Chiles as ‘Jordan Baker’, as well as jewels designed for the film’s extras. Perhaps the most important jewel in this film version is Daisy’s engagement ring: a marquise-shapedd diamond set in platinum with small diamond melée on each side of the shank. The ring created a real buzz at the time, with customers walking into Cartier boutiques specifically requesting the ‘Daisy Ring’.
While there have been quite a few films in which jewelry took a starring role (Ocean’s 8) or allow us to understand the world the characters inhabit and their place in that world (Crazy Rich Asians) and which truly gives a look into the style of the lead (Rocketman) I’m still waiting for the next film’s ‘sleeper’ jewel which will take the market by storm. If you have any ideas or want to join in the conversation, look for my post on this topic on Instagram and please comment and give your opinion.
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