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Never enough, doll!

April 27, 2008|Erin Weinger | Times Staff Writer

This SPRING, it's a bejeweled free-for-all where more means more, and less is unacceptable. But achieving the right look with the season's bold jewelry isn't just a matter of piling it on, so we consulted an expert: Hutton Wilkinson, caretaker of the legacy of L.A. artist, decorator and jewelry designer Tony Duquette, and co-author of "Tony Duquette." Nobody knows how to wear statement pieces better.

Duquette created jewelry for clients such as the duchess of Windsor and Elsie de Wolfe. He died in 1999, but his taste lives on in Wilkinson, his longtime business partner, who continues to design the one-of-a-kind Tony Duquette jewelry collection made from petrified palm tree bark or tiger's-eye, and sold at Saks in Beverly Hills. "The greatest compliment anyone could give me about my jewelry would be that it has no fear," Wilkinson says. "And I think ladies should have no fear when they wear jewelry. Don't listen to your husbands, don't listen to your boyfriends. They are not jewelers. They are not stylists, and they have no idea what you're trying to do." The most important thing to keep in mind, he says, is attitude.


Should the size of the piece match the size of the woman?

No. Petite women in big jewelry is terrific, if you have the right pieces. Take Diana Vreeland. She was extremely bird-like and had big jewels, and it was fantastic.

You're staring into your jewelry box, where do you start?

Don't be afraid to wear pieces in different ways. Necklaces can be twisted, the clasp can be moved to the side. Wear a necklace on your head. Why not? I think hair ornaments are the next major thing. I was out with a client in Paris, and she took a necklace, big balls of emeralds, diamonds, rubies and sapphires, and doubled it and tied it with a little brown ribbon from Fauchon. The chicest thing in the room was that little brown ribbon from Fauchon. It was so throwaway.

You have to have a lot of attitude to do that.

Joan Quinn, who's an Angeleno, has an incredible collection of jewelry. She'll wear three or four brooches at one time. It's her style, and she's dressing for her own pleasure. Most women are dressing for their girlfriends' pleasure. They're trying to impress, and that's not where it's at.

What if you don't have $90,000 for one piece?

It's not about your bank account or your divorce or your alimony on your finger. It's about style. The first piece Tony created for Elsie de Wolfe was a tiara with green Lucite stars that she wore to a Victory in Europe party at the Waldorf-Astoria. Beauty, not luxury, is value. I don't care if a piece is made in copper or silver or 18-karat gold, diamonds or glass. If it's beautiful, what difference does it make? Go to every flea market and garage sale you can find, and put things together. Put two or three necklaces together, or go and get the beads and string them yourself.

How do you choose the right two necklaces?

Choose one that's short against your throat and one that's a little longer. You can do like a tiger's-eye necklace and throw a citrine necklace on top so you have complementary colors. Put fake jewels with real jewels. If you've got one good strand of pearls, put it with five fake ones. The real one will make the fake ones look great.

How do you broach the brooch?

Wear it high on your shoulder. It gives you height, and it's a younger way to wear it. In other words, don't wear it like your grandmother did, like a third bosom.

What inspires you?

Old movies where women were wearing three or four diamond bracelets at one time. Just give me all the jewels in "Camille" with Greta Garbo and all the jewels from "Auntie Mame." All the jewels from any "Thin Man" movie, too.

Let's talk about bracelets.

The more the merrier. That rule about taking a piece of jewelry off before you walk out the door is dead. Bracelet-length sleeves are very in, but I also don't mind seeing a bracelet on top of a long sleeve either. And every now and then, I'll see a woman in matching cuffs, and there's nothing chicer than that.

Do you wear the cuffs on the same hand or different?

Both or one. Ken Downing at Neiman Marcus is such an amazing stylist and man of taste. And he recently did a showing of my jewelry and the models, their wrists were stacked with five or six bracelets on each arm. All different colors. And then the backs of their dresses -- these low cut dresses -- jewels pinned to them.

What are some other ways to make a statement?

You can pin a brooch to your handbag. You can put a scarf around your neck and run the scarf through a ring. Knot the scarf and the ring won't fall off.

I always say what you don't wear, carry. The queen of England carries that great big purse -- you know she has a tiara in there. You can go to the supermarket in a strand of pearls, then take a big brooch out of your purse and clip it to the pearls and you're ready for Buckingham Palace!

So there are really no rules?

Tony always thought that women wear their jewels but don't really enjoy them. They take them off at night and put them in their vaults. So, he created a series of decorations that held the jewels on the dressing tables. Bird statuettes had pearls coming out of their mouths and on their heads.

And what about spring's nature trend?

Nature interests me tremendously. I just bought two python vertebrae. I'm going to stud them with emeralds and jewels and make them into necklaces. Tony used to say -- and this is gonna sound horrible -- but we'd be making headdresses for a movie and he'd say, put some more spots on those feathers. If God had known what he was doing he would have put more spots on those feathers.

Improving on nature?

Maybe. Tony called it "natural baroque."


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