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Meet the Woman Stars Turn to for the Finest Jewelry to Sparkle at the Oscars

By / Published on Saturday, 27 Feb 2016 12:28 PM / No Comments / 202 views

At this very moment, legions of Hollywood stylists are in a tizzy finalizing their A-lister clients’ looks for Sunday’s Academy Awards. But when it comes to the opinions that matter, the very best of them turn to a woman whose taste is so exquisite and profile so discreet (no Instagram account documenting behind the scenes on Oscar day here) that she has earned the trust of many of the most fashionable stars themselves.

The jewelry doyenne of choice for Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Kidman, and Common (yes, Common!) is Fred Leighton’s Rebecca Selva.

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Rebeca Selva in “Aladdin’s Cave”, a.k.a, Fred Leighton on Madison Avenue in New York City.

If you haven’t heard of Selva, that’s just as well with her. As chief creative officer and public relations director of esteemed jeweler, Fred Leighton, she keeps the focus on the blindingly gorgeous antique jewels (which, in all fairness, pretty darn hard to ignore). That grapefruit-sized brooch of pave diamond-encrusted flowers? The Bellperron citrine, amethyst, and diamond cuff? The antique diamond headband with pretty grosgrain ribbon ties? It’s all quite drool-worthy. With a background in art history and 23 years of dwelling in “Aladdin’s Cave” (as Selva lovingly refers to Leighton’s Madison Avenue boutique) she ensures that clients get to try on more than just pretty things—they’re truly works of art. “Every piece is a story,” said Selva. “They’re little 3-D objets d’art. We talk about each piece and what makes it special. The same way we work with stylists or editors, we try to curate for a client and introduce them to this. Once they’re in, they’re hooked.”

Selva is a pioneer in the industry, as one of the first to loan celebrities jewelry for major red carpet events. “It all started when we got a call from Prada [more than a decade back],” regaled Selva of prepping for the 1996 Oscars. “She was dressing Nicole Kidman for the Oscars and she wanted to see opal pieces for Miss Kidman. She ended up wearing a 19th century necklace and you couldn’t take your eyes off her.”

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Nicole Kidman wearing Prada and Fred Leighton at the 1996 Academy Awards with Tom Cruise.

Prada and Selva’s collaboration that fateful Oscar night prompted celebs to up the fashion and jewelry ante that night, spurring stars not simply to borrow major ice, but the wearable works of art that Fred Leighton is a haven for. The jewelry does not simply “finish” the red carpet look, the piece a star wears very much establishes the look and, often, makes it iconic. You’ll recall Charlize Theron’s jaw-dropping tangerine Vera Wang gown with antique diamond dress clips in 2000. “Vera actually designed that dress around those clips,” Selva told us of the pieces, which began trending afterwards. The headbands Selva loaned Natalie Portman (Oscars 2006) and Lupita Nyong’o (Oscars 2014) and the cascade diamond earrings worn by Jennifer Lopez in 2001 all started trends for the masses off the red carpet.

With the 2016 Oscars around the corner, we decided to take a trip down memory lane with Selva to talk about her favorite moments on the carpet, but when it comes to this year’s rocks, her lips are sealed. “It’s really about making the actress feel confident and beautiful on the red carpet—it’s all about she” she says. “It’s not about the dress or the jewelry, it’s about her and, when a woman is confident in what she’s wearing, that’s what makes the moment.”

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Celebrities sparkle in Fred Leighton at the Oscars: Charlize Theron in 2000; Jennifer Lopez in 2001; Natalie Portman in 2005; Sarah Jessica Parker in 2010; Carey Mulligan in 2010; and Lupita Nyong’o in 2014. Selva worked with Prada once more on Mulligan’s dress which had teeny spoons and forks sewed onto it. “When I saw those earrings, I thought Carey,” said Selva of the shoulder dusters she wore that night. “With her haircut, they were just perfect and looked amazing with all the little forks and spoons on her dress. It was so her.”

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More stars at the Oscars in Leighton: Cameron Diaz in 2002; Michelle Williams in 2006; Kirsten Dunst in 2007; and Taraji P. Henson in 2009. Of Williams’ stunning saffron look, Selva said, “That was Michelle’s night. It was her red carpet—and that necklace looked so elegant with her dress and that gorgeous red lip.”

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Nicole Kidman won the Oscar for Best Actress for The Hours wearing 19th Century diamond shoulder duster earrings from Fred Leighton in 2003.

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“In a sea of diamonds, she stood out and looked amazing in gold earrings,” said Selva, of Meryl Streep’s Victorian gold pendant earrings with nary a gemstone in 2012.

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The gems close up: A pair of vintage sapphire and diamond bracelets, which Tilda Swinton wore to the 2012 Golden Globe Awards.

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The 19th Century diamond headband, worn by Natalie Portman to the Oscars in 2006.

Photos: Selva and jewelry photos, Katie Friedman; others, Getty Images

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