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Jewelers and Celebrities

07 april 2009

In the run-up to the Oscar Awards ceremony some of the mass media published an article circulated by the Associated Press and dedicated to jewelers’ contest on the Oscar red carpet.

It's a competitive week for jewelers and designers, all vying for an invaluable place in Oscar's spotlight. "It almost becomes a pirhana-like business," designer Martin Katz says.

Breathtaking baubles fill the glass cases at Martin Katz's jewelry showroom near Rodeo Drive, but during Oscar week, he keeps some of the most impressive pieces in a semiprivate back room. That's where millions of dollars in diamonds sit on a gray velvet tray, quietly auditioning for a spot on the world's most celebrated red carpet.  

It's "staggeringly competitive...because it's such a fantastic advertisement for the brand," says Sally Morrison, director of the Diamond Information Center, an umbrella organization that promotes the industry. "It's very powerful. They get associated with a celebrity who is looking magnificent, who is at the height of their achievement and all that that implies." Says stylist Tara Swennen, who is dressing at least one Oscar ingenue this year: "A placement at the Oscars on one of these girls is worth $50 million of advertising."

Such competition complicates the business, says Katz, who first began loaning his gems for red-carpet wear in 1991. Where borrowing diamonds was once based strictly on personal relationships, nowadays stylists and celebs can pull in big paychecks for agreeing to promote a particular jeweler's designs, he says.

Some jewelers seek red-carpet placement by designing special pieces with a certain star in mind and hoping she'll wear it, Morrison says, while others cart in truckloads of diamonds and set up suites for stylists making last-minute decisions. Swennen says she typically picks the dress first, then chooses two or three jewelry looks for her client to consider. She typically turns to designers she works with regularly.

The gown — and the star's personality — dictate diamond choice, Katz says. He advises his star clients, "This is your chance to be you and not a character, so you should wear jewelry that appeals to you," he says. "You want to look appropriate, so the jewelry is not wearing the person."

In the opinion of the U.S. mass media, First Lady Michelle Obama has, arguably, stolen Hollywood's spotlight, becoming the most-watched style icon, with blogs detailing her every outfit and mainstream fashion media analyzing her impact. Want proof of her status? In March, fashion bible Vogue opted for Obama over a celebrity or supermodel for their cover. 

Perhaps one of the biggest the reasons for Obama's influence is the accessibility of her style. While she has been compared to Jackie O., Michelle O. opts for the likes of J. Crew over Valentino - making her choices for clothes and jewelry within reach of average women. As a result, the Washington Times reports that the First Lady is impacting buying and design decisions at retailers and manufacturers across the country - from color palettes to silhouettes. What does that mean for jewelry? According to the Times, her statement necklaces are becoming 2009's must-have item.

Our analysis: while Obama (like any good First Lady) loves her pearls, she sports everything from multiple pendants to long, layered looks, but her go-to choice - choker-length designs - are likely to have the most impact on how women wear necklaces this year.