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."