If you’ve seen a red carpet event recently chances are good you’ve seen some of Neil Lane’s jewelry designs. Adorning the necks, fingers and ears of some of the most beautiful people in the world, Lane’s pieces are iconic for their intricate aesthetics and attention to detail. But as one of Hollywood’s hottest jewelers, he confesses he never imagined that his life would take such a glamorous turn. In an exclusive interview with JustLuxe, Lane talks about his start, his passion and all those famous A-list clients.
“I don’t come from this planet,” Lane jokes right off the bat. “So my aesthetics are really, you know, out of this world!” he laughs, immediately giving off the impression of a man in love with life. And why shouldn’t he be? When your day consists of casually selecting red carpet diamonds with the biggest celebrities, you know you’re doing something right. “I can tell you when I was a little kid I never thought one day I’d be in Hollywood designing for the most famous, glorious people in the world. That’s not something I wanted to do,” he explains.
But looking back, his childhood gave a pretty clear indication as to what would eventually be Lane’s calling in life. “Even walking around the park when I was a little kid, my mom used to have to empty out my pockets—they were all filed with colored glass,” he laughs. “So I supposed even as a kid I was fascinated with sparkle, but of course, I had no idea that one day I’d be here.” A self-confessed lover of art, Lane’s childhood hobbies quickly turned into career goals. An obsession with architecture, history, and design lead Lane around the world in pursuit of his passions. “I was going everywhere looking at anything that fascinated me—I was flying off to Paris to look at the Mona Lisa and there I began to see amazing architecture and the art nouveau movement in Paris.”
Studying art in college, he traveled back and forth from New York to Europe to absorb the different artistic cultures, and it was there that he really began to take note of the vintage designs of old world craftsmanship. “Jewelry began to have a history for me, it began to resonate,” he explains. “Jewelry began to have a reason, like a place in art history for me, and it wasn’t just decorative things, and I became really fascinated by it.”
Years of studying and collecting vintage pieces and books on jewelry, made Lane an expert on the subject, but it wasn’t until after he moved to California that he started to practice this design. His expertise of these classical European styles was rare and clearly missing from the American fashion scene. He set up shop resetting heirloom stones and passed down keepsakes that women brought to him, and gained a small following for his unique aesthetic before capturing the attention of celebrities.
Today, Lane designs for some of the biggest stars like Renee Zellweger, Reese Witherspoon and Demi Moore, but these celebrities aren’t his only clients; he loves designing for them as much as he does for every woman. “Is there a big difference between Angelina Jolie and ‘Sue Brown’?” he asks, then corrects himself. “Well yes, in some respects, but you know I’ve found when I work with people, women […] all have the same aesthetic, it’s about romance, it’s about beauty; they all want the same thing.” This idea of capturing the beauty of a jewel and sharing it with America instead of purely the upper echelon lead him to partner with Kay Jewelers to create the Neil Lane Bridal Collection and Neil Lane Designs Collection. “I do a collection for Kay and all these years working in Hollywood I’ve been able to really hone on my aesthetics working with some of these glamorous women—[I’m bringing] that together and really wanting to share that with a much larger audience.”
Sharing his designs with women gives Lane the inspiration and passion for his work. “I love working with Angelina Jolie, I love working with Madonna. I love working with Rihanna, [and when] Katy Perry was in, I mean, there are so many people I love working with and I love designing for them,” he explains. “But I also love people coming into my shop and I’m designing their 20th anniversary ring, or 10th anniversary, or their baby present.” He goes on to talk about the thank you note he recently received from Mark Paul Gosselaar after the two designed the baby gift for his newborn. He remembers Goldie Hawn bringing in a little Kate Hudson to try on her first pieces of fine jewelry, and then when Hudson, all grown up, came back to Lane to find her engagement ring. This connection of family, love and relationships is what makes his work so satisfying.
But it’s clear that despite his immense achievements and his notoriety amongst the Hollywood elite that nothing moves him quite like engagement rings. “The magic that happens when you design a ring for someone, the magic that exists between two people, and how the jewelry has an aspect that goes from almost the physical to the spiritual,” he starts enthusiastically. “How some of the platinum and diamonds and gold can transcend a physicality to be a very emotional, romantic aspect of what it symbolizes. I think that type of transformation of what I do in a workshop and what it means to people getting the jewelry or those things that I’ve designed—I think that has been very, very significant for me in terms of success.”
Since the holidays can be one of the most popular times of the year to get engaged, Lane makes a few last minute suggestions to guys thinking of popping the question. “If you’re buying an engagement ring, it’s really important to know your girlfriend's style. I don’t think [you should be] surprising her out of the blue with something that she might not appreciate,” he pauses and laughs. “She’ll probably love you, but I think style and fashion are very, very important today in a girl’s life.” He recommends speaking with the jewelry store staff and letting them know what your girlfriend is like, who she admires, what she wears, what she does—and there’s always the option of bringing someone along. “You can take her mom, you can take her best girlfriend, you can take your potential finance window shopping—ask her ‘what do you like?’—she’ll let you know.”