Behind the scenes at the Cannes Film Festival

An insider’s look at the perfect love triangle formed between jewellery brands, celebrities and the über-wealthy that takes place each year in Cannes.

Chopard Red Carpet Collection kunzite necklace

Visitors to Cannes may wonder why, after the films being promoted, the biggest names fluttering on flags and awnings are those of jewellers, some so exclusive many have never heard of them. Along La Croisette, Chopard, Bulgari, de GRISOGONO and Avakian banners unfurl like rare flowers in the spring.

While every product placement opportunity is covered in this pop-up dream factory, from L’Oreal hair stylists to Jimmy Choo shoes, jewellery is the highest-stake game played at this annual red-carpet ritual. The brands save their biggest carats for Cannes, making the two-week festival one of the greatest concentrations of jewellery in the world.

With good reason, jewellers deploy security batallions to safeguard their multi-million-pound stock and hoist safes the size of small cars into hotel suites. Red carpet credits are a vital component to any luxury brand, but why is it that Cannes is such a key event for the world’s biggest jewellers?

Cast your gaze across the bay and the answer is clear. The dozens of superyachts bobbing in the bay outnumber seagulls. The airport at Nice stacks up private jets and helicopters like other airports make taxis queue. And this is because the Cannes Film Festival kicks off the summer season, bringing in its wake the mega-wealthy who then disperse across the Med, stopping off at Monaco for the Formula One races along the way.

Endurance is another reason for Cannes’ importance. Stretched over 12 sunny, rosé-tinged days, it makes the Oscars or Grammy’s, where schmoozing is limited to just a few days, a mere blip on the media radar.

Serpenti diamond high jewellery necklace
Slinky Bella Hadid combined dramatic winged eyeliner with a diamond Serpenti necklace by Bulgari on the Cannes red carpet. Image: Getty.

Here’s how it works: jewellers provide fabulous gems for the stars to look their very best on the red carpet while the stars provide money-can’t-buy glamour to parties that the fabulously wealthy, who have seen and done it all, genuinely want to attend. Brands like Chopard can give its clients unrivalled experiences, such as walking the red carpet or partying with Rihanna. The film industry is happy for the extra attention and carats, and the hotels are delighted. Closing the virtual circle, the jewels worn by the stars on the red carpet are sold.

The de GRISOGONO balcony plays host to both celebrities and clients, who can browse the priceless jewels at their leisure with a glass of champagne in hand. 

The action takes place along the length of the carpeted corridors of the majestic hotels, whose stucco balconies command prime views of the Mediterranean. Walk any floor and you will soon see a stressed PR flanked by security guards carrying a velvet tray filled with jewels worth millions, or a designer gown, clutch or high heels, dashing to a celebrity who is getting ready for her red-carpet moment. The frenzy reaches a crescendo at 5:30pm every afternoon as the countdown begins for the 7:30pm sharp monté des marches on the red carpet of the Palais des Festivals.

Onyx and diamond high jewellery ring
With a shaved head and de GRISOGONO black onyx and diamond cocktail ring, Cara Delevingne’s punk-rock look turned heads on the Cannes 2017 red carpet (POA).

To stand a chance of getting some red-carpet action, brands occupy the largest suites and, in some cases, entire floors or commandeer prime terraces on which to entertain celebrities and clients. To tempt the wealthy into relaxing their purse strings, jewellers create luxury terraces with a cool St Tropez vibe where they entertain guests and famous faces. A DJ sets the tone, the Champagne flows and the Mediterranean sparkles obligingly as a backdrop for this al fresco jewellery parade.

Classic chic from Nicole Kidman on the Cannes red carpet. She wore a pair of round brilliant diamond ear studs by Harry Winston to the screening of The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

Clients are there to buy and stars to browse ahead of their red-carpet appearances because these jewels with six- and seven-figure price tags are for the very few. As one unnamed PR candidly remarked: “Don’t think the celebrities can afford these jewels – it’s all for the clients.” Real estate to create these mini-resorts is in short supply, so much so that one jeweller remarked that it was so unfair that for years one of the major film distributors had first dibs on the prime balcony of one hotel, instead of allowing one of the jewellers in.

With so many diamonds dangling down cleavages, you could almost forget that the Cannes Film Festival is about the comparatively dull business of film distribution. And believe me, diamonds shine brighter in the Riviera sun than in any display case on Bond Street. 

Gatsby amethyst and white enamel earrings
Avakian's Great Gatsby earrings combine white enamel and amethysts, as spotted on the Portuguese model Sara Sampaio on the Cannes 2017 red carpet.

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