It comes by
Awards show season is the
One sparkling moment in the celebrity spotlight can be worth millions in advertising for a jewelry brand. The styles celebrities choose to wear set trends that trickle all the way down to the mall's fast-fashion copycats.
"That image of a celebrity wearing drop earrings or a dramatic necklace and all the many ways it is shown and commented on in the weeks after the awards shows … there is no way to quantify the value," says Victoria Gomelsky, editor of JCK magazine, a trade publication for retail jewelers. The Tiffany tassel earrings worn by
For jewelers doing the lending, having a piece on the red carpet "ratchets up the sense of mystique about a brand and creates awareness," Gomelsky says. The red carpet has become so central to the industry that some brands are willing to pay celebrities to wear their jewelry. For last year's Academy Awards, Tiffany & Co. reportedly paid
Swiss jeweler Chopard is co-hosting a Golden Globes after-party Sunday with the Weinstein Co., which distributed
Other jewelers use cocktails and canapes to court the attention of celebrities, hoping to build relationships and loyalties that will lead to future sales. Award season buzzes with parties designed to woo wealthy shoppers and borrowers alike.
On Tuesday night at Culina at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, for instance, Jacqueline Nerguizian was plying fashion stylists and style influencers with Champagne and her own version of a Super Bowl ring — a 4-carat center diamond surrounded by princess-cut sapphires. Although she has been in the business 20 years in Scottsdale, Ariz., it is the designer's first award show season.
Valued at $50,000, the ring hasn't yet made it to an award show, but it did make it to the Golden Globes nomination ceremony Dec. 15.
Up on Sunset Boulevard at Bar Nineteen 12 at the Beverly Hills Hotel, InStyle magazine and Forevermark, a diamond brand in the De Beers family, were showcasing sparklers by up-and-coming jewelry designers. Actress
Earlier in the day, jeweler-to-the-stars Neil Lane's West Hollywood store was buzzing with security guards and fashion stylists. "I'm here to pick up for
It's difficult to pin down exactly when the practice of lending jewelry for the red carpet started. By the 1930s, Paul Flato, the original jeweler to the stars, was already lending his designs to the studios for celebrities to wear in films, so it is likely that they wore them on special occasions too.
But Harry Winston has long claimed to have been the first to lend diamonds to a star to wear to the Academy Awards. It was 1944, and at the request of producer
The earrings aren't visible in photos, and nobody knows what happened to them afterward, but the moment has nonetheless become part of Harry Winston lore. The firm lends out millions of dollars worth of diamonds every year, including the $165,000 princess-cut diamond choker Gwyneth Paltrow wore with a pink
"It's a company commitment," says Frederic de Narp, Harry Winston's president and chief executive. "We have a dedicated team, PR effort and craftsman effort. We pull from all 22 of our salons around the world so celebrities can pick and choose the best of the best."
The red carpet wasn't the international luxury fashion phenomenon that it is today until the 1990s, when
Jeweler Martin Katz didn't know what he was in for when
"I said, 'Borrow?'" Katz remembers. "If she breaks it or loses it, it's too bad, Martin. And it's not as if she was going to wear a sandwich board with my name on it." Katz agreed on one condition: that Stone wear his jewelry while doing magazine publicity for the film and that his name be in the fashion credits.
That simple agreement changed Katz's career and the red carpet forever. "My phone stared ringing off the hook," he says. "I had to hire publicists to deal with the phone calls. Jewelers around the world were offering me pieces to put on celebs; people were even giving me scripts to show celebs."
Fortunately, there haven't been too many calamities along the way. But one notable accident occurred at the 1998 Oscars, when
Although he can't measure the results of each placement in one-to-one sales, he says the media attention has been invaluable. Katz went from working on his kitchen table in a one-bedroom apartment to working in his own salon on Brighton Way in Beverly Hills.
The growth of the Internet has made celebrity endorsements even more valuable, he says. A single placement lives for perpetuity on websites and blogs and can reach billions of people.
But Katz and other smaller jewelers have found it harder to compete in recent years because so many jewelers have started playing the game and some are willing to pay for red carpet exposure.
"Last year, I had one of my favorite actresses lined up. And sadly, one of the houses gave her and her stylist watches as gifts to wear their jewelry," he says.
Katz says some of his competitors have celebrities on their payrolls as well. "In the last five or six years, agents have started making deals.… To me, if you know it's a paid endorsement, it changes the complexion and perception," he says.
Another jeweler who has benefited from high-profile exposure is Neil Lane, who started out in 1989 with a counter at the Antiquarious antique center on Beverly Boulevard. He met his first celebrity clients because they wandered in, often after meetings with their agents at International Creative Management nearby.
His big break came with Renée Zellweger, who wore a vintage black James Galanos gown and Neil Lane Art Deco-era jewelry to the 2001 Golden Globes, where she won best actress in a comedy for "Nurse Betty."
Since then, he's lent jewels to
"A lot of celebrities who were buying my [wedding] rings asked me to borrow jewelry for the red carpet," he says. "Or I loaned them jewelry for the red carpet, and then they bought my rings. It's very symbiotic, not a one-shot deal."
Lane has become something of a celebrity himself, as the official engagement ring maker for
Although he does not pay celebrities to wear his jewelry, Lane sees the pay-for-play red carpet deals happening. But no matter how much money is changing hands, relationships still have more value in the long run, he says.
"Hollywood is an amazing vehicle for exposure," he says. "If I was still in Brooklyn, I don't think I would be the guy I am today."