News & Scoops

2013 April 22

From The Daily Brides: Neil Lane, Crown Jewel

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(NEW YORK) When it comes to multi-platinum hits, no one comes close to rock star Neil Lane, who’s frosted Hollywood A-listers like Angelina Jolie, Emily Blunt, and Sandra Bullock for almost 25 years. We caught up with the award-winning joaillier between sets in his L.A. studio.

Have you always wanted to be a designer?
I wanted to be an artist. What did I know about designing? But I was always fascinated by jewelry and color. When I was a little kid, my mom used to walk me around the park in Brooklyn. I’d empty my pockets and they were full of colored glass I’d picked up off the street.

How did you get into the business?
I’d sell what I found on the streets of New York at the flea market. Eventually, I saved up enough money to visit Paris, where I studied jewelry before moving to L.A.

What was the jewelry business like then?
It wasn’t as glamorous or cultured. At that time, red carpet was just emerging. Many of the young girls were borrowing big, chunky necklaces and vintage pieces for events that didn’t make sense for 19-year-olds to wear. So I started making things I thought were cool for red carpets: long diamond chains, Victorian jewelry. Now, there’s a big red carpet culture!

Your celebrity roster is extensive!
It’s a wonderful way to get my work out, and it’s an organic process for me. Renee Zellweger came to my counter before she was famous. She was nominated for Nurse Betty and came into my shop with her dress. She took off her t-shirt, put on her gown and tried on the jewels. The next day, she was winning a Golden Globe and shouting, ‘To my friend Neil Lane, thanks!’

Who else has waltzed into your shop?
Daniel Day-Lewis just came in before he won the Oscar in February. Every time he’s nominated, he comes in to borrow jewels for his wife, Rebecca. And then there’s Ellen [DeGeneres] and Portia de Rossi. I’ve been working with Ellen for years. When Portia got her engagement ring, she told me that when she first came to Hollywood, she’d always dreamed of owning a Neil Lane ring.

You also have a partnership with Kay Jewelers.
This collection is my dream come true! I wanted to share my bridal aesthetic with everyone, but at the level I was making jewelry, it was costly and limiting. I told them America was ready for much prettier designs than they were getting, and they listened.        

Has that collab impacted the jewelry world?
In Hollywood, I was designing a lot of cushion-cut diamonds for people like Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Hudson. But on a mass level, nobody had heard of that style; nobody sold cushion-cut engagement rings then. That cut became one of the most popular in our collection. We’ve changed the face of American bridal.

What’s trending in engagement rings?
A variety of cuts, like the emerald cut or the cushion cut. Details and vintage styles are big, too.

What about colored stones?
Colored stones are much more popular in Europe, but America has always been a diamond country.

Miley Cyrus’ engagement ring has gotten a lot of attention thanks to you.
Out of all the celebrity rings I’ve done, maybe besides Britney Spears’, that ring probably got the most attention! Women are looking for that romantic ring.

Do you ever deal with groomzillas?
Putting a ring on a guy is like putting a handcuff on someone! When we fit them, we have to go very gently, not too tight, so they don’t feel trapped.

What jewelry word would you love to retire?
When bling came out, I thought it was awkward. I didn’t know I sold bling! But I only really cringe when I read ‘so and so wore a $5 million dollar ring on the red carpet.’

What’s the most extravagant engagement ring you’ve created?
I did an amazing wedding ring for a royal family with a 10-carat pink, heart-shaped diamond set in white diamonds.

You’re the exclusive jeweler to The Bachelor. Do you watch the show?
I don’t watch a lot of TV, so I wasn’t even aware of it before I signed on. Now I love it and it’s opened up a new world for me.

What do you like to do when you’re not designing jewelry?
I grow flowers that are hard to grow in California, like tulips. I just had a tulip gathering of about 24,000. I order them from Holland.

Where can we find you hanging out in Los Angeles?
At a baseball game, or playing with my grandchildren. I’m not a hanger-outer!

Are you married?
I’m single, and I like being a bachelor. The only person to bother me is the housekeeper!

When did you feel like you’d made it in the jewelry business?
Did I make it? I don’t know. But it’s an amazing journey, coming to Hollywood over 20 years ago with just a little bag of vintage jewelry and a lot of culture!

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