It started, not with a kiss, but with scent. Celebrities ‘created’ ‘perfumes’ aimed at their fan bases. The result being that most of them were cheap and singularly disgusting: Beyonce’s ‘Heat’ and ‘Pulse’, Britney Spears’s ‘Radiance’ and even Jade Goody’s ‘Shh’, which had to be removed from the shelves after she didn’t shh her views on Indians. The clever (or should I say Klever?) Kardashians produced ‘Dashing’ — another cheap smell aimed at a reality TV audience with little spending money or discernment.
The new celebrity craze (of which the Kardashian sisters are taking full advantage) is jewellery design. The Kardashian range begins at fifteen pounds and rises to the dizzying heights of £115 a pop. But before we sneer too much, some celebrities are designing jewellery as part of their charity work. To the fore in this are (as ever) Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Their engagement has recently been announced, and with it pictures of a very beautiful ring — a large diamond in a ribbed band. The ring was designed by Brad in collaboration with Robert Procop, with whom the couple have been working for some time.
Unlike the Kardashian end of the market, Angelina’s range (the Style of Jolie) through Procop is undeniably beautiful. Using semi-precious stones such as citrines and golden beryls, the rings and earrings are modern yet traditional, chunky yet feminine. Any woman worth her salt would be proud to own them. ‘Together we strive for nothing less than artistic innovation,’ says Procop, adding that ‘the beauty of those creations is matched by the beauty of spirit behind Angelina’s most heartfelt mission — to empower children in crisis.’ Money from the collection goes towards one of Angelina’s charities, the Education Partnership for Children in Conflict, with the aim to build schools in Afghanistan. So there you have everything — jewellery, celebrity association and charity.
Not all celebrity jewellery with a charity twist has such a happy outcome. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, working with Jack Vartanian, designed a range of necklaces based on handcuffs. Oh, this was clever. It symbolised everything worth symbolising — their conjoined happiness, a hint at raunchy bedroom activity and — this was the killer — a stand against child sex slavery, raising money for the Demi and Ashton (DNA) Foundation, a non-profit organisation aiming to raise awareness about the issue. Well, lovely. But now Demi and Ashton have split up, and the necklaces aren’t that pretty: who’s actually going to wear them?
Two years ago Sharon Stone, one of the most beautiful and old-fashioned of all Hollywood stars, unveiled a collection in aid of ‘Drop in the Bucket’, a charity which works towards providing clean drinking water in Africa. ‘We went to Uganda. We saw these places in need, just desperate to have our help. I want to give the proceeds of it back to putting in clean water wells and latrines,’ professed Stone. ‘I’m gonna cry because I always get so emotional about it!’
Her range is called ‘Maji’, which means ‘water’ in Swahili. It is clear where the inspiration comes from — rough-cut diamonds are mounted on burnished gold and silver, to look like drops of water. To be honest, it looks more like a child’s dried-pasta stick-on effect than jewellery, but again, it comes with the price tag and the celebrity association. Stone’s collection came through the designer Damiani, who stresses that she came up with the idea ‘all by herself’. Designers and celebrities need each other, that’s the point.
Jade Jagger’s jewellery is a bit more serious, and there appears to be no charity tag involved. She was with Garrard, but is now working on her own. Her style is to ‘marry glamour and rock chic together with onyx skulls and diamond disco ball necklaces and bracelets’. They’re quite expensive pieces, but also really rather small.
Perhaps the most surprising ‘celebrity’ jewellery designer is Frank Gehry, the Canadian-born, ice-hockey-loving contemporary architect. In some ways his forays into jewellery make more sense than those of the rich birds who just love to wear the jewels. His bangles, sold through Tiffany, show an eye for line and style beyond anything you could expect from the reality show celebrities. But then is his white gold octagonal torque really worth more for being designed by him? There’s beauty, and there’s snob value. And there are prices attached to each.
So there’s the problem: do we buy jewellery for what it looks like, for how much it costs, for the charity or celebrity to which it is attached? If we are not careful, will it not just become merchandising of another brand? Do we, without thinking, just buy the latest Disney-themed lunchbox for our children, and the latest celebrity jewellery for our wives or mistresses?
In the end should we not look at the jewels, at the designs, at the sheer beauty, rather than the names?
Hand-painted watercolour torque bangles in bone china by Frank Gehry for Tiffany & Co., POA
DEMI MOORE AND ASHTON KUTCHER
Handcuff necklace in yellow gold with white diamonds by Jack Vartanian for the DNA Foundation, £1,380
Brown gold and rough diamond ring by Sharon Stone for Damiani, £1,670
Pear-shaped emerald earrings by Angelina Jolie
for Robert Procop, POA