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Instagram red carpets. Zoom stages. Hollywood glam has changed. Just follow the jewels

Fashion and Zoom meet the red carpet.
(Photo illustration by Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Mateo; VRAM)

When Regina King “arrived” at the virtual Emmys last September, one of the boldest pieces in her ensemble was, in fact, something very small: A double-pronged ear cuff on her lower left lobe made of diamonds and 18-karat gold.

It was nearly impossible to spot in the full-length photo she posted of herself on Instagram. The sapphire-blue Schiaparelli gown popped. The Stuart Weitzman stilettos shined. But the ear cuff hid behind her black, wispy baby hairs.

There was no physical red carpet at the Emmys. No one stood on the sidelines asking what jewels King was wearing that night. Instead, stylists Wayman Bannerman and Micah McDonald tagged the jewelry designers adorning their client — including, among others, the L.A.-based Established Jewelry, maker of the ear cuff.

The shoutout and — after a King outfit change — a late-telecast closeup of King’s high bun and ear full of bling was more than enough promotion for Nikki Erwin, the brand’s founder and designer. She had already been shipping out signature pieces for A-list stars like Zendaya, Viola Davis, Leonardo DiCaprio and others. But seeing King wear her work in a more intimate setting as opposed to the Microsoft Theater or Staples Center hit differently for Erwin.

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“It did feel a little more personal,” Erwin says. “To be a small part of a moment happening for this powerful woman, I was like, ‘Whoa, this is special.’”

Erwin’s aesthetic — fine jewelry with a tough sensibility — is particularly well-suited for intimate spaces. Established Jewelry makes pieces that thrive on proximity, the kind that can be achieved with an iPhone portrait mode or the closeness of a webcam on a laptop.

Last year’s Emmys were the first major awards show that went virtual since coronavirus took hold in early 2020. And it was the first time we got to see how Hollywood stars and their stylists would make awards-show looks translate on the Zoom screen. With the Golden Globes and Oscars following suit by going virtual this year, and Instagram grids taking their place as this season’s new red carpet, jewelry will move from a supporting player to a leading role.

In preparation, designers and stylists are getting creative with how they embellish their celebrity clients. For some, like Matthew “Mateo” Harris of women’s luxury line Mateo New York, the show’s shift to a digital format is changing the way they work completely.

While the brand’s minimal, modern earrings made of pearls, diamonds and gemstones have always been its bread and butter Harris lately has been even more focused on making pieces that will come across on Zoom.

“Everybody is moving toward a dramatic earring or a necklace — I’ve seen that, and the focus has to be that,” he says.

In 2019, “Pose” star Indya Moore wore a pair of Mateo New York’s dangly citrine and diamond earrings on the Golden Globes red carpet, with a statement citrine drop ring and pearl ring to match. But that look, Harris says, would need to be refocused.

“Visually, people are looking for something that catches the eye when you’re on that Zoom call or on that FaceTime call,” says the Jamaican-born designer. “That’s what’s going to be impactful during this time. We should be all looking out for some really killer earrings and some fantastic necklaces.”

Harris is a favorite among some of this season’s buzziest stars. Zendaya — whose performance in Sam Levinson’s “Malcolm & Marie” is drumming up Oscar predictions for best actress this year — wears him regularly on and off the red carpet. (“Zendaya has now become a friend,” Harris says. “We text.”) King, who is expected to get a best director nomination for her feature-length debut “One Night in Miami,” most recently wore Mateo for the February issue of InStyle, sporting a pair of collarbone-grazers made of 14-karat gold, rose quartz, morganite and diamonds, known as the 14kt Gold Barely Blush Earring.

Harris has pivoted to designing pieces for all his clients, famous or not, that will “pop on camera.”

Celebrity stylist Elizabeth Stewart also has her eye on statement earrings for clients like Viola Davis this season. The actress’ portrayal of the title character in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is earning its share of Oscars talk.

“I love a bold graphic earring for brightening up a look,” Stewart tells The Times. “It’s a go-to for [Davis], a simple colorful jacket and a great earring.”

In January, while speaking virtually on a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Q&A panel, Davis wore a pair of bespoke Chrona Disco earrings from L.A.-based designer VRAM Jewelry, with a maroon Stella McCartney blouse and skirt set. Made of 18-karat gold and sterling silver, with green and purple sapphires and diamonds on the ear wires, the architecturally minded earrings took center stage under Davis’ crown of curls.

Did it mean any less for an independent brand like VRAM that this huge moment — an Oscar winner starring in one of the biggest movies of the year wearing its designs — was happening in a virtual space, instead of on an analog red carpet?

“You would think so,” says Francesca Simons, a fine-jewelry consultant and representative for VRAM. “But because it’s someone who is an A-lister, it doesn’t really matter. ... We’ve got the image of her wearing them, we know she’s a fan, we know she loves the jewelry, and that’s the story right there, whether it’s a red carpet or not.”

Stewart — whose roster of clients includes Gal Gadot, Julia Roberts, Amanda Seyfried, Cate Blanchett, Rebel Wilson and Zoey Deutch — says she is “planning on using lots of jewelry” this year. “We have a smaller canvas basically with which to work,” she says.

It’s jewelry’s ability to make a Zoom look still feel fancy and polished that has Harris rethinking the red-carpet style hierarchy.

“When you’re on a virtual platform or a red carpet, people want to be stimulated visually, and the only way you can do that is with some good fine jewelry,” he says. “The clothes? Meh. But the jewelry? It’s here to last and it’s here to stay.”


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