He’s designed engagement rings for some of the biggest stars in the world, Madonna, Jessica Simpson, Sandra Bullock, and Jennifer Hudson, to name(drop) just a few.
He’s the go-to jeweller for the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Renée Zellweger and Reese Witherspoon.
And his pieces have been part of some of the most iconic moments in Hollywood award season history.
So with proposal season officially in full swing, we sat down with jeweller to the stars, Neil Lane, to quiz him on how to find the perfect engagement ring, the next big jewellery trends, and what it’s like to see your creations on stage, at the Oscars…
Kate Hudson at the 2014 Oscars, in Neil Lane Jewelry
1. How did you first garner the attention of Hollywood stars?
Funny enough, I got my start far away from the glamour of Hollywood – I grew up in Brooklyn scavenging through flea markets and slowly started to grow a collection of beautiful vintage jewelry.
That passion brought me halfway across the world to Paris, where I continued to find magnificent antique jewels. It wasn’t until someone told me that they were building an antique center in Los Angeles that I even started dreaming about moving out West.
There was a well-known talent agency across the street from the antique center I was in, and beautiful young actresses started to stop in looking for interesting and unique pieces that they couldn’t find anywhere else.
That’s how I fit in – from all the years of careful collecting and studying, I was able to bring them the vintage styles that they had never seen before.
From there, I started designing their engagement rings, from Madonna to Demi Moore, and all of a sudden engagement rings became my thing. I’ve now been working in Hollywood for over 25 years and what a journey it’s been.
Octavia Spencer at the 2013 Oscars, in Neil Lane Jewelry
2. Is there a different process when you’re creating an engagement ring that you know will be seen by millions?
I put every ounce of my energy in each engagement ring I design – whether it’s going to be seen by millions or just an intimate moment between a future bride and groom.
As a designer, I have a job to create pieces that are uniquely beautiful. That’s why I’m excited to be able to bring my designs to a larger audience through my collaboration with Kay Jewelers.
Everyone is the same when choosing an engagement ring – they’re in love and want something stunningly gorgeous that also holds meaning.
3. Tell me about the designs behind a few of your favorite celebrity engagement rings?
L-R, Nicole Richie and Emily Blunt’s engagement rings.
They are all so special! The vintage design of Emily Blunt’s engagement ring incorporates all the romance of the earlier part of the 20th Century.
It was a 3-carat Edwardian diamond and platinum ring which was a perfect fit for Emily. She is such a lovely person and a wonderful actress.
Nicole Richie was super involved in her design process, and I really appreciated her input. We created a beautiful 4-carat round diamond ring that’s just as stylish as she is.
4. How does it feel to see your jewels on stage, as Oscars are accepted?
Jennifer Hudson at the 2006 Oscars, in Neil Lane Jewelry
It’s always exciting. There is so much that goes into the process before the awards shows, working closely with each celebrity or stylist to select the perfect pieces so they can sparkle on the red carpet, and luckily, even sometimes up on the podium accepting their awards.
It’s incredibly rewarding to be a part of that experience. For example, the jewels I designed for Jennifer Hudson when she won her Oscar were exquisite.
She was kissing her Oscar and all you could see was this spectacular diamond ring. I designed the ring specifically for her and the brown and pastel diamonds perfectly complemented her gorgeous Roberto Cavalli gown.
Viola Davis’ 2015 Emmy Jewellery
Most recently, I helped Viola Davis with her look when she made history at the Emmy’s by becoming the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Her acceptance speech was so powerful, and I was honored to be a part of such an historic moment.
If I’m able to help a celebrity feel beautiful and confident on her big day, then I’d say my job is done.
5. Who has been your favourite star to wear your pieces?
Jennifer Laurence at the 2014 Golden Globes, in Neil Lane earrings
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the most beautiful and talented women in the world.
This past year alone I have been able to collaborate with amazing people like Cate Blanchett, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna, and Jennifer Lopez who I’ve worked with for years as well as newer musicians like Lorde – who’s just fantastic.
Each experience is an opportunity, as each star is looking for something unique that reflects their personal style. So, they’re really all my favorites! For me, every single experience is rewarding.
6. What are the biggest ring trends for 2016?
The halo setting is so popular – women are loving the unique look and elegant style. They are also gravitating towards fancy cuts, such as emerald, oval and pear. These cuts are perfect for the confident bride-to-be who wants to make a big statement with her ring.
Rose gold is another popular trend as is mixing metals. It’s a really cool way to add a fashionable twist and make your ring really stand out.
I have always been focused on incorporating the latest trends in ways that truly complement classic, timeless designs – which is what makes my work challenging but also a lot of fun.
Engagement Rings from Neil Lane’s Bridal Couture Collection
7. What cuts are the most popular right now?
Again, fancy cuts are really popular right now. One in particular that I’m being asked about a lot is cushion cut. This style features a rectangular or square shape with rounded corners that really accentuates the beauty of the setting.
Many celebrities have recently requested this style, including Rachel Zoe, Jessica Simpson and Mark Wahlberg and Rhea Durham.
8. What do you use as inspiration for your new designs?
I often turn to my collection of vintage jewels for inspiration – period jewels have always fascinated me because of the unique style, level of quality and the incredible craftsmanship.
9. What makes a beautiful engagement ring?
An engagement ring reflects her sense of style but it also celebrates the unique bond you share together.
The meaning behind the ring is what makes it special and you taking the time to select something she’s going to love, is what it’s all about.
10. What’s your advice for someone selecting a ring for their partner when they’re unsure of their taste?
An engagement ring is one of the most important purchases you will ever make and you deserve to feel great about the piece you select.
You may not know her specific preferences in terms of the 4 Cs but you know her and you know you love her and that’s really all you need. From there, a good jeweler will be able to work with you to pick out the perfect ring.
11. Do you find more brides are coming in to find their ring, or do grooms still want to surprise them with a proposal?
I see a lot of couples shopping together and I think that’s such a fantastic idea.
In addition to getting a better understanding of what she likes, this is also a great way to share in the excitement of the experience.
12. What’s your favourite piece you’ve ever designed?
I have many favorites but one in particular was a 10 carat pink cushion cut diamond, which I had the luxury of working on for three months. I was able to incorporate all of my aesthetics into this one lovely jewel.
One thing that I’m incredibly proud of is being able to bring my aesthetic and the glamour of Hollywood to women everywhere. I was able to realize this with the launch of my Neil Lane Bridal and Neil Lane Designs collections.
13. Have you top tips for choosing a ring that will be timeless?
If you take the time to choose a piece that reflects the love you have in your heart, then your loved one is sure to cherish it forever.
That spirit of forever is why I am so dedicated to designing pieces that are classic and that will stand the test of time.
Zoe Saldana at the 2013 Oscars in Neil Lane Jewelry
So many gorgeous engagement rings, and beautiful accessories. It’s fascinating to hear the work and creativity that goes on behind red carpet looks too (almost as much as a wedding day!)
Thanks so much to Neil Lane for taking the time to tell us about his work. Visit the Neil Lane website, to see both his Couture Bridal engagement ring collection, and his Neil Lane Bridal collection, with Kay Jewelers.
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