Gone Hollywood: Inside the Celebrity-Jewelry Industrial Complex

I grew up about 20 miles northwest of Hollywood and now live stumbling distance from the famed intersection of Hollywood and Vine, which means that, unlike most of the world, I consider the city, first and foremost, a geographical location as opposed to an industry or a state of mind.

My lifelong proximity to Tinseltown also means that I’ve developed a fairly good degree of immunity to its magnetic charms. I don’t obsess over celebrity fashions or baby bumps, nor do I care (much) about star sightings (unless, that is, you’re Jon Hamm and I’m seated for dinner across from you). But in the days leading up to the Oscars, I completely surrender to the anticipation and excitement that blanket this town like a freak Southern California snowfall.

This year, as I navigated a series of celebrity scenes touched on one level or another by jewelry and watch companies, Hollywood’s siren song proved especially hard to resist.

The week kicked off on Tuesday at the Soho House West Hollywood, where Gemfields, the London-based colored stone mining company, unveiled its new advertising campaign featuring actress Mila Kunis. The 29-year-old star of the forthcoming Oz the Great and Powerful was friendly and upbeat as she answered my questions about her new role touting Gemfields’ Zambian emeralds.

“I can’t even say I was a jewelry lover,” Kunis confessed. “I’ve been learning to appreciate fashion over the past few years, and I’m now learning to appreciate jewelry. All I can say is that I was never really into diamonds.”

Ashton, are you listening? When I snuck upstairs to the Soho House’s bar and restaurant to work on my laptop in between my interview with Kunis and the luncheon celebrating her new role as Gemfields’ global ambassador, I might have tipped off Mr. Kutcher (the future Mr. Kunis?), who was sitting just a few feet away from me. Alas, about 10 minutes after getting situated on the couches, I was asked to leave for violating the club’s strict members-only policy. Oops!

I returned to the scene of the crime on Thursday, when Jaeger-LeCoultre hosted a screening of Open Heart in the sumptuous red-velvet atmosphere of the Soho House screening room. Nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject, the film examined the plight of eight Rwandan children who journeyed to Sudan to undergo open heart surgery at the Salam Center, Africa’s only free-of-charge cardiac hospital, built and operated by the international humanitarian organization EMERGENCY.

Actress Marcia Gay Harden introduced herself to me prior to the screening as we hoarded heaps of prosciutto at the charcuterie table, but it was the presence of the film’s director, Kief Davidson, and producer, Cori Shepherd Stern, that really excited me—all the more so at the dinner that followed, where Stern and I discovered we had friends in common.

By the time Saturday rolled around, I’d already seen so many celebrities that I didn’t think I could muster genuine enthusiasm for any more sightings…until, that is, I arrived at the Spirit Awards tent on Santa Monica beach for Film Independent’s indie film celebration. Thanks to sponsor Piaget—and the always-excellent publicist Jim Kloiber of GCK Partners—this year marked my fifth annual trip to the Spirits, easily Hollywood’s most casual and debaucherous ceremony.

My table at the 2013 Spirit Awards

The cool thing about the Spirit Awards is that many of the nominees are also Oscar contenders, so the show feels like a rehearsal event for the biggest show in entertainment. But the ceremony’s casual daytime nature doesn’t lend itself well to dramatic jewelry displays. Which, I suppose, explains why Piaget focused on outfitting the dudes.

Actor Common, Piaget CEO Philippe Leopold-Metzger, and actor Chris Tucker pose in the Piaget Lounge during the 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards (photo courtesy of Piaget).

Paul Rudd and Kyle MacLachlan were at both events, and paid their respects to the brand by wearing white gold Piaget Altiplano timepieces to the Sunday night shindig. Silver Linings Playbook star Chris Tucker stepped it up a notch by choosing a 38 mm Piaget Altiplano in white gold with a full diamond pave dial as his Oscar night accessory.

I watched the big to-do in the comfort of a friend’s living room, where the unanimous conclusion was that the celebrity-jewelry industrial complex had done its finest work on Jennifer Lawrence. Wearing magnificent Chopard diamond ear pendants and a graceful diamond bead necklace worn stylishly backwards, the Best Actress winner exuded a wide-eyed charm that seemed at once very Hollywood and very un-Hollywood—by which I mean the state of mind, of course, and not the location.