Joan Crawford in “The Women” Photo: Getty Images
Hollywood awards season has exploded. But even if you’re not invited to a single ceremony or after-party, it’s still always a diverting armchair sport to see who is wearing what; who has the most stunning, sparkly jewelry; and what silhouettes and accessories from both the movies and the red carpet will become iconic classics. Think: Holly Golightly’s (Audrey Hepburn) LBD and her cascades of pearls in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), a look that will forever be cemented as a high standard of timeless style.
Over the years, stars, starlets, and boldface names have made splashy news not merely on the West Coast, but internationally, as they donned marvelous frocks and made even bigger news with their personal jewelry collections.
In the spirit of the glittering awards season, we highlight a few factoids about the jewels of celebrities of yesteryear. Did you know?
– In the olden, golden days of Hollywood, stars actually wore their own jewelry in movies! Some of the heaviest hitters were Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson, Merle Oberon, Ava Gardner and Jean Harlow. Among the many: Oberon, as jet-setting royalty in the film “Hotel”, wore her own striking turquoise parure.
– Joan Crawford was almost always seen in a brooch, bracelet, and necklace parure from Verger Frères for Boucheron. It was, after all, she who allegedly uttered, “I never go outside unless I look like Joan Crawford the movie star. If you want to see the girl next door, go next door.” The jewelry virtually dripped aquamarines and diamonds, and the pieces were set in platinum and yellow gold, with warm rose-gold accents. Crawford wore these jewels in the celebrated film, “The Women”. After her 1977 passing, the renowned parure was acquired by Andy Warhol.
– Just as major screen stars wore their own gems in film 70-some years ago, they sported their own (or good paste) to awards shows. It was not until 1944 when Jennifer Jones borrowed her bling from Harry Winston, that a tradition was born. And it has mushroomed exponentially: Internationally prominent jewelers today work with stylists and even establish suites in hotels where a celeb can peruse bijoux to determine if a multi-million-dollar necklace is the just-right accessory for the neckline of her gown.
– Actress and Academy Award-winner Merle Oberon started a grand jewelry collection, with Cartier as its centerpiece. Most likely her first husband (Oberon married four times), director Sir Alexander Korda, got her started, when in 1938 she acquired a superlative Cartier emerald necklace featuring 29 graduated, baroque drops, with diamond accents, all set in platinum, with diamond rondels. It sold at auction in Switzerland in 1996 for $2.1 million dollars.
– Another luminary whose collection featured Cartier as a cornerstone was Grace Kelly, whose husband’s family had strong ties to the maison, dating back to 1920 when Prince Albert I signed a royal warrant with the French jeweler (Interesting to note: Grace Kelly wore her own diamond engagement ring, given to her the previous Christmas by Prince Ranier, in her last film, “High Society.”). She said that her favorite was not a sapphire or emerald bracelet or necklace, but a poodle brooch. Several of her most favored pieces were recreated by Cartier for 2014’s Olivier Dahan film, “Grace of Monaco”.
– Marilyn Monroe might have easily done for Harry Winston, with one sentence in a movie song (“Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”), what other movie stars have done for Cartier. Winston was, by 1953, well-known for its red-carpet loans, and when Marilyn uttered, “Talk to me, Harry Winston, tell me all about it,” she underscored the fact that the House of Winston was, indeed, one of the most esteemed in the world.
Ruth J. Katz