Stuart, the first to preview this year?s $200 million display of Winston’s international collection, is just one of many Academy Award attendees who will don the famed jeweler’s pricey artworks, which range from a 220-carat yellow and white diamond necklace to a $40,000 pair of diamond studded Ray Ban sunglasses. But who gets chosen to borrow these glittering goodies for the night? Explains Harry Winston representative Ed Callaghan, “The people who get the most TV air time wear the jewels.”
Each February, the jeweler sends printed invitations to Oscar nominees, their dates and assorted industry big wigs. After receiving her invite, Helena Bonham Carter checked in with the Paris office. Julie Christie and Judi Dench also reserved time in Paris. Burt Reynolds’ fiancé arranged to pick up jewels in Beverly Hills. At Monday night’s ceremony, you can expect to see other Winston regulars like Helen Hunt, who last year wore 5.42-carat diamond earrings and a 16-carat diamond bracelet valued at over $200,000, and Mira Sorvino, whose $700,000 ensemble included ruby and diamond earrings, bracelet and a five-carat marquis cut ring.
The past weeks have been taken up with fittings, which include intricate measurements of fingers, wrists, and everything between the breastbone and the earlobe. Figuring the precise distance between a woman’s breasts may seem a tad obsessive, but Callaghan says there’s no other way to guarantee that “just by breathing, the diamonds sparkle in the light.”
Once the stars are fitted, the problem shifts to keeping the jewels safe come Oscar day. Winston provides security escorts, both in uniform and undercover. Nancy O?Dell, weekend anchor and correspondent for “Access Hollywood,” who wore $500,000 worth of jewelry to last year’s ceremony, says that her security guard took top priority, even over her producer. “The guard had to ride in the car with me. But everyone couldn’t fit, so my producer had to trail behind us in another car.” Actress Angela Bassett didn’t mind the heightened security. At the 1996 ceremony, she was so nervous about her $9 million necklace that she requested an escort to the restroom.
Then there’s the day after the big show, when the jewels must be returned. Two years ago, Mira Sorvino arrived at Winston’s Beverly Hills shop toting her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and posed for pictures with the entire staff. Last year, Best Actor winner Geoffrey Rush’s wife returned the couples’ borrowings, and won the award for the most inconspicuous security case. “She came in with her nanny and took the jewels right out of her diaper bag, and the jewels were wrapped within a diaper,” says Callaghan.
For now, who’ll be wearing what at Monday’s ceremony is a closely guarded secret. It’s all part of the plan to wow with surprise. “The ladies are as discreet about their jewels as they are about their dresses,” says Callaghan. Even this year’s Price Waterhouse representative, Lisa Pierozzi, the accounting firm’s first-ever female Oscar rep, asked Callaghan to keep her jewelry selection quiet. “She picked them out, looked at me, and said ‘Ssshh, now put them away.’”