By Rachel Garrahan in New York
For close to 20 years, Fred Leighton jewelry has been worn on the red carpet by some of the world's biggest stars, including Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and this year's Best Actress Oscar favourite, Julianne Moore.
Rebecca Selva, chief creative officer and PR director, took time out of her busy schedule in the run-up to this weekend's Academy Awards to reminisce about her favorite red carpet jewelry, and to share her passion for 19th century gems.
So what is the secret to Fred Leighton's enduring success? Rebecca believes it is down to its long-standing, collaborative relationships with actresses and stylists, and the endlessly beautiful options offered by antique and vintage jewelry.
Whether mixing Victorian baubles with cutting-edge fashion, or taking antique components and converting them into new, spectacular designs, it is a testament to Rebecca's creative eye that vintage jewelry is no longer locked away in dusty safes and is being worn by fashionable women who both look and feel good.
"Our approach to the red carpet has always been to let the individual shine. Fred Leighton jewelry is for confident women who know their own style," Rebecca explains. "We have a vast collection of jewels so there are so many unique stories you can create. And what makes a look so beautiful is that a piece works with the person wearing it."
The journey started in 1996 when the designer Miuccia Prada, herself a Fred Leighton client, requested a Victorian opal choker for Nicole Kidman's first appearance at the Academy Awards. Rebecca and her team have worked with the Australian actress ever since, most recently at the Berlin Film Festival, when she wore a pair of elegant, early 19th century amethyst earrings.
Rebecca's passion is for jewelry of that century, which she says, contrary to its tightly corseted, socially restrictive reputation, was a very creative time: "Its design vocabulary is so rich: from classical motifs to romance, to jewels that convert from brooches to earrings."
When stylist Kate Young was searching for hair jewelry to accessorise Natalie Portman's delicate Lanvin gown at the 2005 Academy Awards, Rebecca was inspired by Victorian ingenuity: "We had a wonderful 19th century choker and, when I looked at it, I thought it would make the most beautiful headband. We mounted it and Natalie looked unbelievable."
She also re-imagined an Art Deco diamond dress clip into dramatic earrings for Jennifer Aniston at the 2013 Oscars. "We had a beautifully shaped clip that was just begging to be made into earrings. We added a diamond baguette fringe so they really stood out against Jennifer's long hair," she says.
Much of Fred Leighton's red carpet jewelry looks like it has just stepped off the runway. At last year's Met Gala, Charlize Theron looked confident and edgy in Dior Couture and dramatic earrings, which Rebecca had designed using the wings from a 19th century bird brooch: "I added a whole double fringe of platinum and diamonds so when Charlize walked the red carpet, they suddenly became modern."
Maggie Gyllenhaal, star of The Honorable Woman, is another long-time client. With her sleek, modern style, she likes to mix vintage jewelry with fashion-forward gowns. For the Golden Globes, Maggie accessorized a simple, white, strapless column dress with neoclassical-style Victorian earrings. Their purity of form has a timelessness that means they could have been designed today.
For last year's Oscars, Rebecca worked with Lupita Nyong'o's stylist Michaela Erlanger. "She told me that it would be good to do an earring up the ear, but she didn't want it to be hard, she wanted it soft. I looked at some irregular rose-cut diamonds, and created a crescent-shaped design that was shimmery, soft, and with a touch of attitude. Lupita felt confident, she felt herself, and we were so honoured to be part of that," she explains. The earrings inspired a contemporary collection of Fred Leighton jewelry that is available now.
We can only wait with baited breath to see what red carpet jewelry Rebecca and Fred Leighton will conjure up for the Oscars this Sunday.
A fan of 19th century old-mine diamonds are re-imagined by Fred Leighton with rose-cut diamond centres, set in silver topped yellow gold, with a total of approximately 15.00 carats of diamonds.
This stunning vintage necklace was worn by Nicole Kidman to the 2010 SAG Awards. Re-imagined by Fred Leighton, it features three 19th century pink and purple enamel flowers nestling between antique old-mine diamond flowers in their original, circa 1880s, silver-topped yellow gold mountings.
Actress Maggie Gyllenhall wore this impressive, 1950s style, old mine diamond honeycomb bracelet with converted components by Fred Leighton to the 2010 Oscars. Set with a cabochon emerald, sugarloaf sapphires and diamonds, it oozes vintage Hollywood glamour.
Stunning Fred Leighton Enamel and Diamond Flower Garland pendant earrings set with approximately 5.00 carats of old mine and rose-cut diamonds.
Actress Charlize Theron wore this magnificent pair of earrings, re-imagined by Fred Leighton, to the 2014 Met Gala, comprising a pair of antique-cut, pear-shape diamonds, set into antique diamond wings, with ombre enamelled feathers and a white gold and diamond fringe.
Actress Charlize Theron walks the 2014 Met Gala red carpet wearing vintage-inspired Fred Leighton diamond wing earrings with ombre enamelled feathers.
Rebecca Selva, chief creative officer and PR director for Fred Leighton, re-imagined an Art Deco diamond dress clip into dramatic earrings for Jennifer Aniston at the 2013 Oscars.
Best Actress Oscars favourite, Julianne Moore, wearing 19th century Fred Leighton earrings on the 2015 Critics' Choice Awards red carpet.
The 1950s style, old-mine diamond honeycomb Fred Leighton bracelet is just visible on the hidden wrist of actress Maggie Gyllenhall as she walked the 2010 Oscars red carpet.
Fred Leighton's Rebecca Selva was inspired by Victorian ingenuity when she had a stunning 19th century choker mounted to create a beautiful diamond headband for actress Natalie Portman to wear as she walked the 2005 Academy Awards red carpet.
At the 2014 Oscars, actress Lupita Nyong'o wore a pair of crescent-shaped Fred Leighton earrings created by chief creative officer Rebecca Selva, with a design that was shimmery, soft and with a touch of attitude.