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Designers Collaborate on Costume Jewelry Line

November 07, 1986|DIANE REISCHEL

When fashion legend Diana Vreeland agreed to design jewelry, no one expected the results would be demure. Least of all Lester Rutledge, the Houston jewelry designer licensed to sell the Vreeland line. He sat through meeting after meeting in Vreeland's famed all-red New York living room.

"I sit on the red sofa. And she's to the left, on the red chair," Rutledge recalls of the design sessions that led to a costume jewelry line he can only call "larger than life."

"It's romantic, bold. Sort of yesterday, today and tomorrow," he enthuses. Specifically, Rutledge labels Vreeland's jewelry (priced from $100 into the thousands) a "bridge" collection, meaning that it bridges the gap between precious and costume. The line consists of synthetic gems, faux pearls, cubic zirconia and vermeil (sterling silver dipped in gold) and includes semiprecious stones, such as amethyst, coral, topaz and tourmaline.

The flamboyant, often Art Deco-inspired pieces were produced to fill "an enormous need throughout the world for extremely fine costume jewelry," says Rutledge, unearthing several pouches of the dazzling trinkets on a recent L.A. visit. "The customer is the lady who already owns the real thing, or the lady who aspires to it."

More than lending her name, Vreeland was "keenly interested in the most minute detail," Rutledge says, although he admits that some design ideas are his.

In addition, the Vreeland collection includes a small group of authentic jewelry, "for people who really collect," he says.

Rutledge, who sells his other wares through the Lester Rutledge Collection and Tootsie's boutique in Houston, offers the Vreeland line by special order from Saks Fifth Avenue.

Further, he promises the Vreeland baubles won't be the last with a celebrity stamp.

"There's a princess in the wings," he says mysteriously, "and one of the top women fashion designers."

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