Jewels to die for
For over 40 years, Kenneth Jay Lane (b.1930) has been designing costume jewellery that re-interprets both traditional styles and pieces by famous designers. His claim that, “If I haven’t copied you, then you’re not worth copying”, is true, but disingenuous – he may copy others, but he brings a humorous eye and his own design flair to every piece.
Lane was born in Detroit and moved to New York City in 1954 when he began working in the art department at Vogue magazine and was championed by Diana Vreeland. Soon, he was designing shoes for Roger Vivier and shoes and jewellery for Arnold Scaasi. In the early 1960s he decorated some cheap plastic bangles with diamanté for his female friends to wear. The trend caught on and in 1963 he founded the Kenneth Jay Lane company. In the mid-1980s Lane began designing jewellery for Avon.
Kenneth Jay Lane, jewellery uses Swarovski crystals, high-quality faux pearls and enamel to create designs inspired by Ancient Egypt, India, Art Deco, Victorian jewels and the work of Cartier and Chanel. He is a fan of Jeanne Toussant’s 1930s and 40s Big Cat jewels worn by the Duchess of Windsor. The Duchess was among his patrons, and is said to have been buried wearing Lane’s designs.
Other customers include Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Ivana Trump, Diana Princess of Wales, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.
Until the late 1970s Lane’s jewellery was marked K.J.L., since then it has been marked Kenneth Jay Lane or Kenneth Lane.