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'The Queen Of Bling' Preps For The Oscars

Lorraine Schwartz (right), with singer Mary J. Blige, attends the amfAR gala in New York to kick off Fall 2009 Fashion Week.
Larry Busacca
Getty Images
Lorraine Schwartz (right), with singer Mary J. Blige, attends the amfAR gala in New York to kick off Fall 2009 Fashion Week.

If you've seen Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video, then you already know jewelry designer Lorraine Schwartz. That titanium glove the pop star sports in the video? It's Schwartz's handiwork. It was constructed as a full-arm piece, made with a lightweight metal that was intended to make Beyonce feel like a superhero. That's not all: When Beyonce married Jay Z last spring, the ring he put on her finger came from Schwartz.

"What can I say? She's my muse," says Schwartz. "You could not ask for a better canvas to show your jewelry on."

Beyonce isn't the only celebrity Schwartz has bedazzled: She's adorned Barbra Streisand with pink diamonds, sold jewelry to Justin Timberlake back when he was still buying gifts for a girl named Britney, created jewel-encrusted tiaras for royal families and made house calls to Elizabeth Taylor.

And if you can't afford to be one of Schwartz's clients, you can still keep up on her trends; there are plenty of glossy pictures of stars accessorizing with Schwartz's work in InStyle magazine.

"All clothes are about seduction — whether you are seducing other people or you are seducing yourself. And I think that's what you do when you put on Lorraine's jewelry. You get seduced when you put it on," says InStyle fashion director Hal Rubenstein.

On a recent visit to Lorraine Schwartz's building in Manhattan's diamond district, I wasn't exactly feeling seduced; the guards digitally fingerprinted me and took my recording gear as I did my best to convince them nothing in my bag would help me smuggle diamonds out.

But the moment you walk into Schwartz's office, you forget all about the Fort Knox security system and you let the jewels overtake you. It's like opening a treasure chest: lots and lots of bins, with jewelry all over the table.

Rubenstein says this is exactly what makes Schwartz stand out: She doesn't treat her work like it belongs in some glass box on display.

"Lorraine has everything in zip-lock bags, buried in drawers ... shoved up in a shelf. They come out of her handbag," he says. "She sort of shakes these things [and] out come these fabulous pieces of fantasy."

Pink gold, jade, titanium, gems set in gems, carved blue topaz and black diamonds — Schwartz even weaves gold into a mesh-like cloth that twists and drapes and gives way to the contours of the body. All this helped her earn the title The Queen of Bling — a moniker she embraces wholeheartedly.

"You know, I look at it as a compliment. I definitely think my jewelry can be over-the-top. But that's one of the reasons that it's so wearable and it's not taken too seriously," she says.

Three generations of Schwartz's family have been in the diamond trade in Manhattan, and though she's not quite sure what her grandfather would think of her "bling" status, Schwartz likes leaving her mark.

"We are making our own statement, and I think my mother is probably smiling because she sees a lot of herself in what I do. We're making a little bit of history," she says.

Schwartz wouldn't give me any hints about what she was working up for this year's Academy Awards. She says the competition between the designers to get on the red carpet can be nasty — but it's all worth it when you get to spend the day helping the stars shine.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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