On the red carpet, diamonds still a girl's best friend

In the beginning, there were diamonds and Harry Winston. Winston made the first loan of diamonds to an Academy Awards attendee in 1944 to Jennifer Jones, who had been nominated for her starring role in “The Song of Bernadette.” Jones won the Oscar and the legendary lapidarist won a devoted following. From that moment forward, actresses were invited to borrow his jewels for the most important night in Hollywood.

While the tradition of borrowing a few gems for Oscar night may be set in stone, what the stars are borrowing and from whom is a vignette that has been completely recast. Top names like Winston, Fred and David Orgel have been forced to share the glory recently. Contemporary designs, distinctly vintage pieces, semiprecious stones and unique artisanship have caught Hollywood’s eye. The result is a treasure chest of options. Sparkle is good. But so is making a statement.

“Creating impact is so important,” says stylist Vincent Boucher. “A lot of the traditional jewelry just looks really bland. This season, originality of design is the goal. That’s why vintage is so popular now and some of these newer names offer a more interesting way for me to highlight an actor’s personality. Bulgari, Fred Leighton, Martin Katz, Christian Tse — their stuff is bold, really eye-popping and just gorgeous.”

The 1970s vintage turquoise, sapphire and diamond ring that Cate Blanchett wore to the Golden Globes exemplifies the trend and what Boucher means by impact. (The ring, from Bulgari’s museum collection, is not for sale.) Though Bulgari is not a new name to Hollywood, the Italian jeweler’s designs are enjoying new appreciation from actresses for their unique combination of precious and semiprecious stones.

“Jewelry is the most precious and sophisticated way to create a glamorous and daring look,” says Nicola Bulgari, vice chairman of Bulgari. “But there is nothing worse than to see someone wearing jewelry in which she is not comfortable.”

“Diamonds may be forever but they are not for everyone. There is a very special relationship between an actress and her jewelry. She has to look like she owns it,” says Boucher. “Just piling on the diamonds does not work anymore. Fortunately, today we have options that old Hollywood never really had.”

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