Fred Leighton, a Jeweler Who Made Stars Glitter, Dies at 85

Mark Badgley, co-owner of the fashion designer Badgley Mischka, regularly decked his models and clients in Leighton jewels.

“He’d come down when we’d do fittings on models, sit there for hours, and when a gorgeous model would come out in a new gown, he would just gasp,” Mr. Badgley said in an interview. “He got so much joy out of seeing something beautiful, and he would enhance it with his jewelry.”

Like other elite jewelers, among them Harry Winston and Chopard, Mr. Leighton regularly lent jewels to celebrity clients. For Mr. Leighton, the practice began in 1996 when Miuccia Prada selected a 19th-century Australian opal choker for Ms. Kidman to wear as she walked the red carpet at the Oscars with Tom Cruise, then her husband.


Patricia Arquette wore a pair of Fred Leighton earrings in 2016.

Getty Images; Annabelle Harron

“That moment was very impactful in elevating vintage jewelry around the world,” Greg Kwiat, whose family company acquired the Leighton store in 2009, said in a telephone interview.

The moments kept coming as some of the stars of Leighton’s inventory turned up routinely at the Oscars, even if Mr. Leighton himself did not.

In 1999, Sophia Loren was wearing one of his diamond necklaces when she presented the Oscar for best actor to Roberto Benigni. In 2000, Vera Wang designed a tangerine gown for Charlize Theron around diamond dress clips from Leighton. In 2001, Jennifer Lopez wore his cascade diamond earrings. In separate years, Ms. Nyong’o and Natalie Portman wore his diamond headbands. And in 2005, Mr. Badgley borrowed two Art Deco diamond clips to use on the straps of Kate Winslet’s blue gown.

Fred Leighton Video by Sarah Nelson

Mr. Badgley typically showed Mr. Leighton sketches, photographs or the actual dresses he was designing for stars heading to red carpets, he said, and “he would go down into his archives, search the store and come back with a selection of the most amazing pieces.”

Although the comedian Joan Rivers frequently excoriated actresses’ fashion choices at the Oscars, she also wore Leighton.

“I distinctly remember a beautiful big pair of emerald and diamond earrings that she wore on the red carpet,” Rebecca Selva, the chief creative officer and public relations director for the store, said in an interview.

Fred Leighton was not, for most…

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