The Academy Awards 2011 – Jewelry Styling Highlights & Missed Opportunities

Almost anyone can look lovely in a diamond riviere necklace of appropriate length, a look of classic Hollywood glamour for a red-carpet event. What is far more interesting, in my opinion, is jewelry chosen to work with the color and design of the dress with which it is to be worn and with the features of the woman wearing it. The 2011 Academy Awards provided examples of sophisticated jewelry styling that went beyond the expected safe white diamond choices, and, sad to say, even more examples of jewelry styling that missed the mark.

For best jewelry, my pick is Oscar winner Natalie Portman, who wore rubellite and diamond tassel earrings from Tiffany & Co. that perfectly complemented the deep hue of her flattering dress by Rodarte, the designer team of sisters who also created costumes for the movie Black Swan. The graceful earrings worked beautifully with the portrait neckline of the dress and brought attention up to Portman’s lovely face.

Also thoughtfully chosen were Cate Blanchett’s stud earrings of yellow and white diamonds in yellow gold from Van Cleef & Arpels that complemented both her blonde coloring and her extraordinary soft lilac and bright yellow gown that was nothing less than a work of art from Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci. Her bracelet of white diamonds in yellow gold was a perfect accent to the ensemble.

There were examples of noteworthy jewelry that didn’t quite work with the gowns they adorned.

Helen Mirren looked gorgeous in a fitted grey gown by Vivienne Westwood Couture accompanied by a spectacular vintage sautoir pendant necklace and black pearl and diamond drop earrings from Cartier. However, the pendant sat just over the edge of the neckline of Mirren’s gown and looked to be an awkward length that would have required a great deal of adjustment through the evening unless the pendant was somehow pinned into place (which perhaps it was).  

Amy Adams wore a spectacular Cartier emerald necklace and matching bracelet, so flattering with her coloring. However, the beauty of the necklace was lost against the texture of her heavily beaded dark blue L’Wren Scott gown.  

Nicole Kidman’s necklace looked red carpet-appropriate from the front—a 19th-century diamond riviere choker-length necklace set in dark metal from Fred Leighton. But look at it from the back, and you can see that the necklace was far too large for Kidman – it has an extremely long extender that hung well down her back.

There were examples of missed opportunities in jewelry styling too. For instance, Jennifer Hudson looked gorgeous in her bright tangerine-colored Atelier Versace gown accompanied by white diamond bracelets, earrings and ring from Neil Lane. However, I concur with the suggestion of a gemologist friend of mine that a pop or two of fire opals would have been spectacular with that gown.    

According to Us magazine, Anne Hathaway was reportedly paid as much as $750,000 from Tiffany & Co. to wear their jewelry exclusively along with her eight wardrobe changes televised over the course of the evening. Whether or not that story is accurate, it seems to be well documented that all the jewelry Hathaway wore that evening was from Tiffany & Co. The jewelry was pretty and very costly, but jewelry styling was entirely lacking. What jewels did she wear with those eight ensembles? Can anyone remember the jewelry?  

If you need a refresher, you can find all the ensembles in photos accompanying an article by Archana Ram summarizing the looks.

For instance, why was Hathaway’s Look No. 7—the electric blue satin dress from Giorgio Armani Privé—accompanied by mismatched tanzanite (and diamond) drop earrings, a black onyx (and diamond) bracelet, and a blue sapphire (and diamond) ring? While each item of jewelry is, no doubt, beautiful in its own right, the pieces don’t work together as a suite, don’t work with the style of the dress and weren’t chosen to flatter Ms. Hathaway. They’re just a bunch of pretty jewels thrown on with a pretty dress. A dress that dramatic and minimalist in style would have benefited from a fabulous pair of earrings in a bold, contemporary style and a shorter bracelet that better fit Hathaway’s wrist so that the bracelet wasn’t falling over her hand.

With an opportunity to delve in the Tiffany & Co. archives (which, alas, I presently get to do only via my copy of John Loring’s 1999 book Tiffany Jewels), let me suggest as an alternative to the lackluster mismatched jewelry designs she wore that Hathaway’s blue Armani dress might have been more attractively accessorized with a Thistle bracelet of blue enamel and diamonds in 18k gold designed by Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co. along with coordinating earrings. Bold gold and diamond earrings in a contemporary style by Paloma Picasso for Tiffany & Co. would have been another interesting and much more memorable option than the pretty but uninspired tanzanite teardrops.  

Hathaway’s Look No. 2 was a strapless vanilla-colored dress heavily embroidered with gold or bronze metallic thread from Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci. The dress provided all manner of design motifs that might have been repeated in her jewelry, along with utilization of a metallic hue other than silver. Instead, Hathaway wore small diamond earrings, a relatively big diamond ring, and what looked to be a bracelet of diamonds set in white metal. I would swap that bracelet for the Schlumberger Flowers bracelet of diamonds set in 18k yellow gold, a sophisticated and highly dimensional Tiffany & Co. design dating to 1971 that would better pick up the motifs and colors of the gown.

Hathaway’s Look No. 4 was a custom-made corset dress in a silver-on-black branches print by Vivienne Westwood, the edgiest of the designs Hathaway wore that evening. With the dress, Hathaway wore a formal necklace of amethysts and diamonds that bore no relation whatsoever to the design, color or style of the dress. The dress begged for jewelry with an edgy design with straight lines and sharp edges reminiscent of the branches on the dress, perhaps something in blackened metal with a bit of a Goth or Black Swan vibe. A mesh design by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. might have done the trick.

Anne Hathaway’s gorgeous Valentino red dress on the red carpet would have been especially exquisite accompanied by some serious rubies. Her riviere diamond necklace—the most memorable piece of jewelry she wore all evening—was pretty but not very exciting from a design perspective; it looked washed out in the expanse of Hathaway’s fair skin between her bright red gown and bright red lipstick. A pop of red rubies in her necklace would have added cohesiveness to her ensemble.

In my Dec. 23, 2010 blog post, I raved about a photo of Hathaway in the November issue of Vogue wearing a red dress by Marchesa and a breathtaking suite of diamonds and rubies from Van Cleef & Arpels. Surely Tiffany has some similarly exquisite ruby necklaces in its vault. Big gemstones are wonderful, no doubt, but they miss the mark. Showcasing memorable designs at the biggest red-carpet show of the year might have been worth three-quarters of a million dollars or so much more.