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NYCJW Special. Interview with Rebecca Selva of New York’s Fred Leighton

New York City Jewelry Week

Blending the past with the present is what Rebecca Selva, Chief Creative Officer and Public Relations Director for Kwiat and Fred Leighton, does best. Since 1992, Rebecca has been the creative force driving the curation, styling and design of Fred Leighton, one of the foremost curators of vintage and contemporary jewelry in the world. Rebecca’s curatorial eye and passion for vintage jewelry have been instrumental in establishing Fred Leighton as the ultimate arbiter of red carpet glamour.


Recently Rebecca has expanded her role and applied her innovative vision to the jewelry of Kwiat, known for their contemporary diamond designs and rare stones. Her novel approach to jewelry has given the two renowned and distinct jewelry brands a timeless appeal that feels fresh and modern.

“Jewelry is meant to be worn and enjoyed. I create pieces that are beautiful, distinctive and special.”

Rebecca has taken a few moments to speak with Current Obsession about her career, creative process, and what inspires this true jewelry insider.

How did you begin your career?

My career began in 1992, when I first entered the doors of Fred Leighton after finishing my degrees in art history and jewelry design. I started in jewelry sales, and received an education that is unimaginable. As I started selling jewelry, I learned more about the craftsmanship and design behind the jewelry. Editors began coming in seeking unique and special pieces. I expanded my role into PR, and from there it was a natural decision to work with stylists on red carpet styling for the stars.

What inspires you?

The beauty of the stones inspire me. I look at the stones, imagine what they want to become, and design a concept. When I style a client, I am inspired by their look, personal taste, what they plan to wear, and everything about them. My designs are influenced by the people around us, our lifestyles now, fashion, and how we wear jewelry.

Selection of antique earrings from the Georgian era

Tell us about dressing stars on the red carpet. What is your approach?

It all started for Fred Leighton in 1996, when we got a call from Prada. They were dressing Nicole Kidman for the Oscars and Muiccia Prada wanted to see opal pieces for Ms. Kidman. She ended up wearing a 19th century necklace and you couldn’t take your eyes off her. From there things took off, and we began dressing stars regularly.


Red carpet dressing requires you to look at jewelry in a creative way. I think about the

personality of the person and create looks that suit them and their individual style. Styling an individual is about celebrating that person and a special moment in their lives–helping them to look and feel their best.  It’s not about the jewelry or the dress, it’s about the woman herself. When she is confident in what she’s wearing, that’s what makes the moment.


Pair of gold bracelets by Cartier, ca. 1940s

Tell us about a career highlight.

After the Kwiat family purchased Fred Leighton, they presented me with two amazing 20-carat pear shape diamonds and asked me to create a jewelry design around them. It was one of my first design projects for the Kwiat family. I decided to take it in an unexpected direction. Most people think because they are tear drop shapes, they should suspend. I thought the stones should be close to the face and sweep up the ear. The design I created a double French briolette. The response I received when I presented the concept was overwhelmingly positive. There is a genuine commitment from the Kwiat family to explore the possibilities of design behind diamond jewelry.

That’s such a great story. Can you speak a bit more about how you approach the design process?

I look at the stone first and imagine what does the shape want to do. What does it want to be? Does it want to be on the ear or the finger? What can we do? Then I start drawing. Ideas generate more ideas and I don’t like to be held by one good idea. I like to come up with multiple!

Antique diamond snake necklace, ca. 1890
A selection of Art-Deco rings in diamond, sapphire and emerald

What is your daily routine?

Every day is a new day. From a jewelry and design point-of-view, I am constantly reflecting about how collections are presented in-store, looking at them critically, thinking about what we need, listening to the customers that come in, and hearing what they want. My day is spent thinking and observing what can be done in terms of design.

Can you leave us with an overall philosophy or take away for New York City Jewelry Week?

Jewelry is meant to be worn. Diamonds are meant to be worn. It’s like looking at a beautiful painting or eating a beautiful meal – enjoy it.

Interviewed on the occasion of New York City Jewellery Week, Nov. 12 – Nov. 18 2018


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