Neil of the Diamonds

It’s hard to swing a blond hair extension in Hollywood without hitting an A-list celebrity who hasn’t purchased, received, or at least borrowed one of Neil Lane’s diamond creations. With that kind of red-carpet (and media) cachet, it’s no surprise that he’s been tapped by De Beers to create an exclusive line for their retail stores. “The whole world is influenced by Holly- wood and that glamour,” he told JCK. “I’m going to bring that magic to them.”

The Brooklyn-born Lane built his star power during the past 23 years from a small storefront in Los Angeles. Today he’s a regular in magazines, style programs on television, and, of course, the red carpet. The new partnership, if good for De Beers, is just as beneficial for the designer, who will have an opportunity to take his style from the fantasy world of celebrity magazines to the reality of De Beers stores.

The line, to launch in November at the opening of De Beers’ next retail store (appropriately, in Los Angeles), reflects quintessential Lane style, with an emphasis on delicate, antique- inspired but modern designs. The vast resources of the De Beers name, however, are evident in the breadth of diamonds—from fancy colors to uncut stones polished into beads—available to Lane. Though just a handful of the expected 65-piece collection was ready for a sneak peak in late August, those pieces show a range—from an over-the-top dome ring featuring a staggering mix of diamond colors and cuts to an extension of Lane’s favorite diamond chains for layering to a new Renaissance-inspired take on diamond-initial jewelry. Pieces are cobranded with initials for both Lane and De Beers.

The collection has the Neil Lane wearability that celebrities have loved and the marketing power of De Beers, which is backed by luxury powerhouse LVMH. If there is any doubt as to Lane’s appeal, the designer has a glossy look book that features images of seemingly every Academy Awards nominee for the past decade and clips from all the coveted fashion, celebrity, and lifestyle magazines. “Neil Lane style: It is already tried and true,” he says confidently.

Tried and true, with a healthy dose of glamour, is precisely what the De Beers venture has been missing since its launch in London three years ago. Despite the power of the De Beers name and the luxury know-how of LVMH, the venture has sputtered in generating the kind of media buzz the industry expected from the chain. From product to marketing to store design, De Beers hasn’t quite struck the right chord with consumers yet. Lane’s understanding of the American consumer and American glamour will likely help change that.

“We’re going to find our voices together,” he says. “I’ve been dealing with women—the most beautiful women in the world—for years, and what I want to bring to De Beers is women looking at jewelry and saying, ‘Oh, that’s so beautiful,’ before they say, ‘How much?’”