One of the most dazzling gems at the 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards is reserved for the nominees’ and presenters’ eyes only: the posh backstage Green Room hosted by London’s House of Graff, one of the most preeminent purveyors of diamond jewelry on the planet.
“It’s our fifth year back at the SAG Awards, and we’ve had a very special relationship with the Screen Actors Guild and their Foundation,” Graff Diamonds’ Director of Sales Eduard van der Geest told DuJour from the swanky-but-cozy lounge secreted within Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, the longtime home of the SAG Awards ceremony, where several stunning displays of the company’s creations glistened behind glass casings.
“We don’t lend out jewelry for the red carpet,” said van der Geest of the company’s tradition of bypassing handing out temporary freebies in favor of preserving the high-end value of their elite items for the customers who readily pay for them. “Our pieces are very exclusive, and our clients—stars included—who buy our products don’t necessarily need to see others being paid to wear it. Therefore we stay away from it. In order to be reciprocating, we support the Foundation, and that brings them back to us.”
“Graff is such quality,” agreed Kathy Connell, executive producer of the awards ceremony for all 21 years of its existence. “Their jewels are the finest in the world, and it goes with what we’re trying to do here, which is to honor some of the finest performances of the year. And what’s wonderful also is that Graff is donating to the SAG Foundation. It’s a partnership that’s very important, because the SAG Foundation has literacy programs for children and they also have an emergency assistance fund for the actors who aren’t as fortunate as other actors.”
The Green Room is designed as a glamourous oasis for the actors participating in the ceremony to take a relaxing step out of the Hollywood award show for a moment. “This is a very special lounge where they can chill, either before or after their presentation, away from the hustle and bustle,” said van der Geest.
The luxury aspect is something they appreciate, too.
Indeed, the stars can take in an up-close eyeful of some of the most exotic items Graff has to offer. “We brought quite a few unusual, extraordinary pieces, as always, with the majority being one-of-a-kind pieces,” explained van der Geest, like the sapphire diamond cuff. It takes about five men to make in a six-month period. “The reason we do it is because we can do it, and because nobody else does. That’s what Graff is all about: creating something completely unique.”
And the gems occasionally inspire a celebrity with an anniversary, birthday or special occasion around the corner to pick up a glittery gift. “That has happened, definitely!” chuckled van der Geest.
“I love the green room!” exclaimed early visitor Sufe Bradshaw, enjoying her nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series for her role on HBO’s Veep, the show’s second in as many years. “A lot actors come back here to decompress and collect themselves before they go back out there. It’s really comfortable—and the jewelry’s exciting! I was speaking to the gentleman who sculpted the jewelry and he was giving me the history of the stones and there was just so much interesting information: where the emeralds come from, where the rubies come from, the diamonds from the different part of the world. I just love that.”
In the meantime, even a Green Room veteran like van der Geest admits to being a little starstruck on occasion. He says he’s enjoyed many encounters with the industry’s top actors, but there’s one he always gets a little extra kick out of—and for good reason.
“Meryl Streep is one of my most favorite people on the screen,” he says. “She’s like a rare piece of jewelry.”