In late April I was in New York for the grand unveiling of Tiffany & Co's Great Gastby jewels, created for the upcoming Baz Luhrmann production of F. Scott-Fitzgerald's novel, based in Jazz Age New York. "Welcome to the magical palace of beauty that is Tiffany," said Baz Luhrmann at the launch - a fitting introduction to one of the greatest collaborations between a filmmaker and a jeweller we are likely to see.
One thing is immediately clear: the partnership between the Luhrmann team and Tiffany & Co is a match made in heaven. Hearing husband and wife Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin talk at the launch of the jewels in New York, it was soon apparent that their collaboration with Tiffany went beyond a quest for period jewels.
Producer Luhrmann and production designer Martin's obsessive zeal for authenticity led them naturally enough to Tiffany & Co, the most important jeweller in New York during the Jazz Age when, for a few giddy, fox-trotting decades, this little island was the throbbing, Champagne-fuelled centre of the world. Martin realised she had hit the jackpot when she was shown Tiffany's carefully archived design books and historic order ledgers.
"Louis Comfort Tiffany, the first very, very well-known Design Director of Tiffany in the early 20thcentury, was somebody who frequented all of those Long Island circles that are spoken about in the Great Gatsby, so it seemed like a perfect association," says Martin. Both parties soon realised they shared a passion for authenticity, perfection and beauty, and the flame was lit.
At the press conference, Martin told us: "Scott Fitzgerald was a client of Tiffany, and it is probable that Tom Buchanan (Daisy's husband) was too, so it was right to collaborate with Tiffany - there was a real authenticity in the connection. We worked for two years to get the jewels just right - we made 10 versions of Gatsby's ring." The project resulted in the creation of 20 jewels for the film's main actors, including Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio, to wear on screen, which were recently displayed at Tiffany & Co's flagship store on 5th Avenue.
In her extensive and often eccentric research, Martin began by looking through Tiffany's archives, where she discovered original correspondence between Scott-Fitzgerald and the jeweller. Once Martin realised that the American jeweller had such a wealth of historical data, a collection of period pieces and the craftsmen able to turn archive drawings into jewels, the greatest film collaboration Tiffany has ever embarked on was well underway.
Martin acknowledges Tiffany as a great design partner in a recent interview about the collaboration "because we invented things completely from scratch - whether it was the daisy motif signet ring that Gatsby wears, (or) all of his cufflinks (that) were designed specifically for the movie, (or) Daisy's pearl necklace, as well as the diamond and pearl hand jewellery that she wears at the party, which matches the tiara."
The jewels aren't merely nostalgic recreations of archival designs. Like the soundtrack to the film, produced by Jay-Z, and the clothes by Miuccia Prada, the jewels convey the pulsating modernity of the moment in a design language we can relate to. No holds were barred, no corners were cut and Tiffany pulled out all the stops when creating the jewels that shimmer and glitter on the achingly beautiful character Daisy Buchanan and the elegant, golf club-swinging Jordan Baker.
The centrepiece is the diamond and pearl headband that Daisy wears to Gatsby's fabulously lavish party, which exudes all the opulence and frivolity of the Jazz Age and, despite its value, looks surprisingly easy to wear while doing the Charleston. This piece was directly inspired by a design discovered in Tiffany's archives, recreated using top-quality diamonds and pearls.
The two hand-jewels that Daisy wears with her headpiece would not normally be seen in a jewellery collection today - a hybrid between Indian hand-jewels that Martin had seen on her travels and a drawing from Tiffany's archives, brought to life by the design team. In an interview, the actress Carey Mulligan, who plays Daisy, said of the hand-jewels: "I have never worn jewellery like the jewellery we are using from Tiffany. These rings that were attached to pearls that come around the hand, they were so delicate, I think it changes the way that you move and the way that you carry yourself. You know that you are wearing something very beautiful and something very valuable." Hence the team's insistence on the real deal: zirconia and brass just weren't going to have the same effect. Vintage pieces from Tiffany's archives are also featured in the film, including the diamond hat pins worn by Jordan.
Other key jewellery moments in the movie include Daisy's strand of pearls, which correspond with the pearls that Scott Fitzgerald refers to in the novel as worth $350,000 - a king's ransom in 1922. And Gatsby wears a signet ring with a daisy etched into it centre stone, a coded reference to his undying love for Daisy.
Authenticity was key, so much so that the pearl necklace given to Daisy by Tom as an engagement gift was real and the very one that Daisy, in drunken pre-nuptial despair, rips off her neck, sending the pearls scuttling across the set floor. "Security were scrabbling for the pearls," recounts Martin.
The Great Gatsby collection will follow the film premieres around the world, after which the pieces will be sold to those who want to own the jewels they have seen on screen. So look out for celebrities wearing these jewels on the red carpet - but not before you have first enjoyed spotting them in the film.