Old (and New) Hollywood is an endless source of fashion inspiration--especially when it comes to jewelry and gemstones. The following are just a few classic movies featuring timeless pieces. Enjoy this feast for the eyes!
Vivien Leigh’s Cameo Brooch in Gone with the Wind (1938)
Cameo’s have a long, rich history. Dating back to the ancient Greek and Roman empires, cameos often depicted important scenes among family or even the gods. Mourning cameos depicting a lost loved one were popularized by Queen Victoria in the 19th century.
Leave it to Hollywood, however, to take the trend to the next level. In Gone with the Wind, Vivien Leigh wears an extra-large mourning brooch set in gold, depicting a figure riding birds, a rather unusual scene for a brooch at the time. The brooch belonged to the costume designer’s mother.
Katherine Hepburn’s Arrow Brooch in Sea of Grass (1947)
This beautiful, creative piece was created by Joseff of Hollywood, a prominent supplier of jewelry to the movie industry. The two-part piece worn on the heart-shaped dress with a sweetheart neckline creates the appearance of an arrow-struck heart. Was there ever a more romantic piece of jewelry?
Marilyn Monroe’s Diamond Necklace in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
In addition to sparking interest in fine jewelry designer Harry Winston (“Talk to me, Harry Winston. Tell me all about it!”), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes features an antique diamond with a fascinating history. The Moon of Baroda, a 24-carat pear-shaped yellow canary diamond was the property of the Maharajah of Baroda, India for 500 years until the 18th century, when it was worn by Empress Maria Theresa and later worn by Marie Antoinette. Eventually, the diamond was taken back to its original home where it stayed for another 200 years until Meyer Rosebnaum purchased it, and Monroe wore in the diamond-filled film.
Grace Kelly’s Faux Diamond Necklace in To Catch a Thief (1955)
The lovely Grace Kelly wore an eye-catching diamond necklace to seduce a gentleman jewelry thief played by Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief—but the diamond necklace was fake (both in the narrative of the film and in real life!). Could have fooled me!
Audrey Hepburn’s Pearl and Diamond Necklace in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
“I’m just CRAZY about Tiffany’s!” So were many other jewelry lovers after Audrey Hepburn wore a multi-strand diamond and pearl necklace and matching diamanté hair piece in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Paired with her sizzling black Givenchy number, the jewelry made a gorgeous statement and launched a chic style that’s still emulated today.
Elizabeth Taylor’s Snake Belt in Cleopatra (1963)
Another piece made by the Joseff family, Cleopatra’s snake belt was an unusual, striking piece of jewelry. Joseff’s wife, Joan Joseff measured Taylor for the belt, and by the time the belt was ready, it was 2 ½ inches too small for the actress. Taylor insisted that the initial measurement was incorrect, but others wondered if the actress’s weight had fluctuated. Either way, the piece truly memorable.
Julia Robert’s Diamond and Ruby Necklace in Pretty Woman (1990)
Custom-made by French jeweler Fred Joaillier, this iconic necklace features 23 pear-cut rubies set in diamond-encrusted hearts. The piece is first introduced in the humorous scene when Richard Gene snaps necklace box closed as Julia Roberts reaches for the sparkly item. Of course, the real stunner of the scene was Roberts herself.
Reimaged engagement ring.
Our personal tastes change as we evolve and encounter new experiences. The thing you once loved in your twenties may no longer hold the same allure for you in your thirties or forties. A style that inspired you in your forties may lose its sparkle for you in your fifties, and so on.
This is a natural process that should be celebrated, not feared or regretted. As the poet Mary Oliver writes:
“We do one thing or another; we stay the same, or we change. Congratulations, if you have changed.”
Of course, your evolved tastes can pose a bit of a conundrum when a cherished piece or an investment piece (like an engagement ring or wedding band) no longer suit your current aesthetic. We may be faced with the choice of leaving it unaltered (but never gaining back the desire to wear it regularly) or altering it in some way with the hope of creating a new version of the piece that you’d enjoy wearing more frequently.
Needless to say, the choice to alter such a piece carries its own risks, so it’s important to take time to think through your idea and work with a jeweler you trust. You can even ask to see photos of similar projects the jeweler has worked on and inquire about their experience altering a pre-made or vintage piece.
There are several ways to begin designing alteration(s) to your jewelry. First, list the things you’d like to change—what no longer appeals to you about the piece? If it’s a ring, is the band too thick? What about the texture of the metal? Its color? Next, is there anything you’d like to see added? Would you like to include a stone setting for a new diamond? Would you like the band engraved?
If you’re feeling stumped, look at jewelry catalogs or scan Pinterest for fresh ideas. If a style leaps out to you, be specific about what appeals to you. You can even check our tips for couples designing their own engagement ring since many may apply to jewelry redesign.
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.
When Barbara Michelle Jacobs jeweler Barbara Polinksy found herself wanting to change the look of her engagement ring, she turned to a family heirloom for ideas (and then some).
Using her grandfather’s wedding band, Polinksy created a new (i.e. repurposed) band and included a tapered bezel setting for the diamond from her original engagement ring. This process could be replicated with a heirloom band of your own—or with a vintage piece from Etsy or Ebay.
Altering your engagement ring, wedding band, or any other significant piece of jewelry is not a DIY project (unless you’re a professional jeweler, of course!). Such important work should be handled by a jeweler that you trust and enjoy collaborating with.
Photos: Barbara Polinsky
The holiday season is a wonderful time to get crafty. Sharing crafts (and decorating duties) with family and loved ones can make for special memories. It's especially fun to gather folks around and make an event of it.