By  on February 27, 2009

Red-carpet flash can still lead to cash.

Several pieces of fine jewelry that were worn by starlets on the red carpets of the Academy Awards and Golden Globes have already been snapped up by eager consumers despite the constant reminders of the still-tumbling economy.

Pieces worn to the Oscars by Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman, Diane Lane and Kate Winslet are either sold or the designers of the pieces are in talks with clients.

Jewelry designer Neil Lane, who dressed the likes of Evan Rachel Wood, Miley Cyrus and Diane Lane for the Oscars, as well as others this past awards season, said many of his sales are derived from red-carpet dressing.

“It’s the seal of approval,” he said of an actress wearing his jewelry to such important occasions. “The most beautiful women in the world that can wear whatever they want. Wearing your jewelry…translates into awareness and sales.”

Rebecca Selva, public relations director and celebrity liaison for Fred Leighton, said that within 48 hours of their red-carpet debuts, the company received several inquiries for Amy Adams’ and Taraji P. Henson’s respective Oscar necklaces, which each sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We’ve sold beautiful earrings and other pieces [that were worn to] the Golden Globes,” said Selva. “The necklaces [worn by Adams and Henson] were significant pieces, really unexpected and very forward. It’s wonderful to see such a diversity of jewelry on the red carpet.”

Average consumers consider such pieces collectables.

“It’s like buying Cinderella’s shoes,” said Neil Lane, who added that he sold up to five pieces that were worn to the Oscars and is in talks to sell the diamond fringe collar Diane Lane wore, which is valued at over $100,000.

Sometimes the celebrities themselves buy the pieces they wore, though it isn’t common. Following her best actress win for “Shakespeare in Love” in 1999, Gwyneth Paltrow’s father, Bruce, bought his daughter the diamond-drenched Harry Winston necklace she wore that Oscar night. After being given an award in 1999, Elizabeth Taylor purchased the jewelry she borrowed from Van Cleef & Arpels.

Lorraine Schwartz is somewhat of an anomaly in the jewelry industry. The stars she dresses for the red carpet, such as Beyoncé Knowles, Heidi Klum and Jennifer Lopez, are also clients. Schwartz said she sold several pieces from the red carpet this year, including the $1 million pair of diamond rings worn by Christina Applegate to the Golden Globes, Knowles’ diamond necklace from the Globes and the $2.5 million suite Jolie wore to the Oscars that included 115 carats of Colombian emeralds in a hidden metal setting.

“For me, it’s about setting trends,” said Schwartz of the red carpet. “The jewelry becomes as important as the fashion.”

Van Cleef & Arpels selectively dresses actresses on the red carpet. This year at the Oscars, Eva Mendes wore a turquoise and diamond necklace, and Marisa Tomei donned a sapphire and diamond cuff. Both pieces emanate from the firm’s museum collection, which isn’t for sale.

“We don’t use the Globes or the Oscars as a commercial platform. That’s not the point,” said Van Cleef & Arpels North American president and chief executive officer Emmanuel Perrin. “The goal is about Hollywood elegance…and awareness, obviously. When a piece of jewelry is worn [on the red carpet] and worn well, it has a resonance across the world.”

The necklace that Mendes wore — estimated to be worth $700,000 to $900,000 — drew rave reviews from clients, said Perrin.

“We could have sold that piece many times over,” he said, noting the museum collection is comprised of just 400 pieces and that a $900,000 sale would have a significant impact on the firm. “It’s part of the patrimony from the house. Selling it is not an option.”

The company has had discussions with interested clients to create a piece similar to the Mendes necklace.

Greg Kwiat, chief financial officer of Kwiat, said the $85,000 bracelet with 20 carats of diamonds worn by Natalie Portman on Sunday night is on hold for a client. In addition, customers, inspired by the Lorraine Schwartz 115-carat Colombian emerald drop earrings worn by Jolie, have called Kwiat asking for emerald jewelry.

Chopard’s president and ceo in the U.S., Marc Hruschka, said while the firm always hopes its red-carpet bejeweling will lead to sales, this year was especially successful. Best actress winner Kate Winslet and best supporting actress honoree Penélope Cruz both wore Chopard. Winslet wore 28-carat pear-shaped diamond cluster earrings with a multicut diamond bracelet amounting to 117 carats. Cruz wore a cushion-cut diamond necklace with 69 carats of diamonds in addition to 21-carat diamond stud earrings and an 11-carat diamond bracelet. Both actresses’ Chopard jewels have retail estimates in the millions of dollars.

Hruschka said Chopard walks a tight rope when lending jewelry for red-carpet events, as some clients don’t appreciate their potential jewelry being worn once before — and before millions of people, no less.

“For one type of client, it absolutely adds provenance to the piece,” he said. “At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who don’t want something someone else has worn. I think it does add something to these pieces. To have Kate Winslet up there holding her Oscar wearing Chopard, that’s magic.”

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