Jacqueline Onassis took off her sapphire-and-ruby necklace and handed it to Kenneth Jay Lane. He brought it home after dinner that night and made two copies, he says. One for her and one for him to add to his costume jewelry collection.
Ann Getty's gold-and-gem earrings met the same fate. So did Jean Howard's Dalmatian brooch with the diamond-bow collar. So many of Kenneth Jay Lane's designs have come into being with the blessings of such celebrities that you have to wonder whether he's ever been "inspired" by the gems of anyone ordinary.
Lane remembers the night when his pals "Babe and Diana and Francoise" (Paley, Vreeland and De la Renta) all turned up at the same party wearing the same K. J. Lane necklace.
Lane says his was "inspired by (jewelry designer Gianni) Bulgari."
Bulgari came to the same party, "and when he saw my version of his necklace, he bought a few of mine to give as gifts."
Lots of Satisfaction
This sort of thing gives a lot of satisfaction to "the costume jewelry designer to the stars." So does saying things such as: "Nancy Reagan wears this a lot." He's referring to a jet choker with a jeweled clasp.
"A few of my friends won't wear anything but real jewelry," Lane concedes. "I tell them it's too bad they're so insecure."
"Kenny," as his friends call him, is in Los Angeles to open his new Rodeo Drive boutique. He's planning to unveil another in San Francisco this summer.
On this trip, he's already chatted with Audrey Hepburn, who wore a pair of his chandelier earrings the night she presented an Oscar Award. (He ran into her later at Spago.)
And he's chatted with Betsy Bloomingdale, who, he reports, said she's having fun shopping on Rodeo Drive again.
The street may be going through changes, what with longtime residents closing their doors and rents skyrocketing beyond human proportion. But Lane is undaunted.
"Madison Avenue is always changing shops too," he says. "That Rodeo is changing doesn't put me off. The street has what many great streets of the world have. It's amusing."
For Lane, nothing is anything if it's not amusing. His recent trip to Morocco with a few chums (Robert Stack, Michael York and their wives), his many stints as jewelry supervisor for Diana Vreeland's Costume Institute exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum, his assignments to accessorize the fashion collections of everyone from Bill Blass to Valentino, and his trips abroad for "inspiration" (these days he has his eye on the real gem designs of JAR in Paris, he says) are all amusing to Lane.
He's never too busy being social to tell you the latest jewelry trends. These days, he says, they include brushed-gold designs, a look that "real gold" designer Robert Lee Morris spearheaded with his oversize accessories for Donna Karan's fashion collections. And estate jewels ("old diamonds," Lane calls them) are in style, worn with T-shirts or ball gowns. And Chanel-inspired gold chains are big, especially when mixed with pearls or colored stones, but not with Chanel fashions, Lane says.
"The whole look worked for Chanel, but it doesn't work for too many women."
He says he has figured out what the Beverly Hills style is all about: "More glamour."