set of pices featuring silver-plated metal,
"flawed emerald" and clear stones is
part of Neil Zevnik's collection of vintage
jewelry, an obsession for more than two decades.
ANGELES — Most of us are collectors, whether we
display our obsessions in the workplace or hide them in
their original boxes at home. We devote hours to
researching and buying wine and designer bags, comic
books and antique buttons, action figures and shoes.
Zevnik is a slave to costume jewelry.
has been an actor, a personal chef (his client list has
included Liz Taylor and Pierce Brosnan) and a marine
mammal rescuer, but it’s his 21-year-old hobby that
has turned into an obsession. His costume jewelry
collection numbers in the thousands; his reference
library includes at least 70 books. Most of us have
boxes of stuff, but his stuff makes for a bejeweled
timeline — telling the story of how women chose to
adorn themselves in the 19th and 20th centuries.
jewelry is a weird thing for a guy to collect, but it
has always attracted me," Zevnik says. "I love
the fact that these things have had a life. In the
1800s, the way people behaved was so different, yet here
is a piece from that time that still performs its
function. I find that exciting."
are Victorian wedding bracelets and a mourning locket
with hair of the deceased; Siamese bracelets and
necklaces crafted from silver and black enamel; ‘30s-
and ‘40s-era Eisenberg fur clips; a 1940s Marcel
Boucher moonstone-glass necklace, bracelet, pin and
earrings set in heavy rhodium plate; Victorian paste
shoe buckles; 1920s era "runway necklaces" set
with Czech crystals in brass; and an 1840 choker with
black dot paste stones. Many pieces emanated from famous
houses: D&E Juliana, Trifari, Schiaparelli, Haskell,
Hattie Carnegie, Ciner and Vendome among them. Some
pieces are signed. The costume jewelry fills container
after container; much of it is housed in vintage boxes.
admits to loving "the thrill of the hunt." He
has purchased collections from estate sales and flea
markets and spends hours on EBay, where good buys can
still be found upon occasion. Friends send friends to
him with vintage pieces.
lends jewelry, which he refers to as "jools,"
to friends (Willow Bay wore a bracelet to the Academy
Awards) and acquaintances. He sells a few pieces, those
that he can part with, at the Alex Roldan Salon at the
London hotel in West Hollywood, with a percentage of
sales going to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Center in New York. And he donates some proceeds to
other good causes, including next week’s benefit at
Pepperdine University for the Associated Women for
Pepperdine Scholarship Fund. (Prices will range from $5
to $2,000, with most pieces between $50 and $100.)
a magpie side of me," Zevnik says. "I’m
entranced by things that sparkle."