May 24, 2019—The beginning of the summer for many designers, editors and retailers in the jewelry flock, means its time for the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas to see the new collections at The Couture Show and vintage treasures at the Antique Jewelry & Watch Show. Every year when I attend I can’t help but think of Martin Scorsese’s 1995 three-hour long epic in Sin City, Casino. It hits the jewelry jackpot.
Never before or since has there been quite so much fine jewelry shown on screen in one scene. The moment goes down when smitten casino king pin Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro) presents his bride, hustler Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone), with a trunk sized box filled with Bulgari jewels. While the couple cuddles on their big bed surrounded by diamonds, gold and all kinds of semiprecious stone pieces from the famed Italian jeweler, Stone coyly asks “Do you think it is too much if I wear these all on the same day?”
Before analyzing the loot lets take a look at the big picture so to speak. Universally considered among one the legendary director’s top 10 movies, Casino revisits familiar Scorsese territory: a mob theme with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in starring roles and a script by Nicholas Pileggi. A big difference between Casino and all of Scorsese’s male dominated movies is the powerful Oscar nominated performance by Stone who more than held her own with the tough guys. She delivered glamour and grit in equal measure, but let’s focus on the glam.
The lavish budget given to the costume designers for the movie, Rita Ryack and John Dunn, was reputedly $1-million dollars—in 1990s dollars. They spent the money beautifully on clothes for Stone’s character dressing her up in 1970s styles perfectly reflecting her rise to the top and spiral down. Over the course of the three hour long epic, Stone changed outfits 40 times. The looks still cause a sensation on the internet among the fashion inclined who wax on and on about the amazing period styles particularly the chinchilla Ryack found in Vegas from Liberace’s furrier. One of the more elaborate dresses was so heavily beaded it weighed 45 pounds. What has been left off of the critiques is a detailed look at piles of jewelry.
A quick glance to even the amateur jewelry expert reveals it’s not exactly the styles from the 1970s. To back track before the bed of baubles scene, when Sam first falls in love he delivers the voice over line “In Vegas, for a girl like Ginger, love costs money,” while onscreen he pins a lavish diamond brooch on her dress. Bulgari definitely made brooches in the seventies, and this could certainly be one, but the earrings with triple cabochon drops she paired with the ensemble are 1990s designs. The closeup of her hand in the scene when Sam proposes reveals another Bulgari best-seller the Serpenti tubogas ring set with a pink tourmaline. For story accuracy, however, it’s wrong. The piece was launched in the 1990s. There is another diamond and pearl brooch with matching earrings that look about 20-years too contemporary for the period of the film. Then there is the scene with all the jewelry in the bed.
The vast majority of the jewelry looks like they emptied the Bulgari vault and tossed it on the mattress. There are few signs of 1970s jewels. There are Monete coin and chain jewels in the mix, a style Bulgari has made in pretty much the same mode since the days of discos. There are also several diamond rings set in the classic ways, something Bulgari has created along with every other big name in the biz since the 1920s. The rest of the goods are 1990s creations.
Famous for being a perfectionist, why did Scorsese allow the jewelry to be so off the mark in the otherwise perfectly costumed film? He even gave the 1990s jewelry a second scene when Ginger reviews it with her daughter in the bank vault in dreamy close-ups years after receiving it. I mean DeNiro is outfitted in era appropriate Piaget watches and splashy pinky rings. I think it has everything to do with the sheer quantity of the jewelry used in the movie. It would be challenging at best to assemble that much 1970s jewelry and the affect would not be as impactful with any less.