Scarlett Johansson Translates Her Love for Meaningful Jewelry Into Charity
The actress discusses her latest initiative with David Yurman and channeling Hollywood’s Golden Age stars in Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City.
Scarlett Johansson is amassing a small but mighty collection of Victorian-era jewelry in her spare time. The actress buys pieces here and there each year, with the intention of bestowing the baubles upon her 8-year-old daughter once she’s “a young adult,” Johansson tells me over the phone from her home in Los Angeles. “My idea was to put them all in a jewelry box and eventually give it to her,” she adds. “Like, here’s a little start, you know?”
While Johansson has a personal passion for vintage jewelry, she’s also deeply interested in the styles of today having been named an ambassador for David Yurman last year. In addition to starring in the jeweler’s campaigns, the Black Widow star has partnered with the house for the second year in a row on a curated assortment of jewelry pieces benefitting the Lower Eastside Girls Club. Through June 30, shoppers can purchase the collection handpicked by Johansson, with proceeds going toward the Manhattan-based organization, which connects young New York women and gender-nonconforming youth of color with free year-round programming and mentoring. Below, Johansson discusses the latest collaboration, her family heirlooms, and her plans for Cannes–where her latest film, Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, will premiere.
How did you decide which 12 styles would be featured in the charity shop?
Evan Yurman [president of David Yurman] and I talked about it a lot—how can we be most efficient with this? We wanted the pieces to be accessible so that many different people could participate. At first, it was like, let’s do only charms. But we figured that might be limiting. So we opened it up to some of the huggies, amulets, and a few little pieces that were more like everyday, layering jewelry. We thought it would be cute to have some personal choices: like, I put the Sagittarius symbol in there; I love the evil eye and wear it daily. Evan suggested the pinky ring because, obviously, that’s an iconic Yurman piece.
How does your approach to choosing jewelry you wear in your everyday, personal life differ from the jewelry you wear on the red carpet?
I wear jewelry every day. I’ve had a lot of piercings in my ear since I was a kid, so I typically wear comfortable, meaningful jewelry. Obviously, I wear my wedding band, my engagement ring, things my husband got me, little personal things. My daughter bought me a necklace on Mother’s Day last year. I cried!
But as for red carpet, that’s fantasy. For instance, we’re going to Cannes, and for that, I’ll go to Yurman. To be able to open their vault... [laughs]. They have so much jewelry, so many trays of incredible things. They make one-offs, too, with these amazing stones, because Evan is a huge collector. On the red carpet, I wear things you would not normally have access to. It’s like fairy-princess jewelry. When else are you ever gonna wear millions of dollars worth of insanely giant, gorgeous stones?
Speaking of Cannes, Asteroid City, premieres at the film festival this year. What was it like, channeling Hollywood Golden Age actresses like Judy Garland to play your character, Midge Campbell?
She’s not necessarily [inspired directly by] Judy Garland—she looks a little bit like Judy Garland, but that was also the look of that particular time. I mean, I absolutely love Judy Garland. She inspired me as a kid to be an actor. I idolized her. So I’m excited the performance draws those comparisons.
There’s such a particular story for a famous actress that gets to the position that Midge has; she’s a very highly regarded star of stage and screen. She’s in the middle of an illustrious career, and she will die on the stage. I spent a lot of time with Wes trying to understand what sort of actor Midge Campbell was. We were like, who could we draw from? How does she sound? Where did she come from? We landed on a kind of Bette Davis type: how she was spirited, her confidence, she’s no-bullshit. She is theatrical in a delicious way, but she’s also vulnerable, and that’s one of her strengths. She’s this wonderful diva with a career we felt could mirror Bette Davis’s. And she sounds a little bit like Bette Davis, too.
If you were referencing Bette, you probably had a ton of material to study.
Yes, and a whole lifetime career. So that gave me something to grab onto in Wes’s crazy world.
Let’s talk about your personal jewelry collection. What’s your most prized piece?
I love my engagement ring. My husband chose it and he did a very good job. He really, really did. It was an unexpected choice from him.
But I’m assuming he chatted with your friends and family to get a sense of what you might like.
Luckily my best girlfriend, Sonia Boyajian, is an incredible jeweler. So props to Sonia—but I don’t want to peek at how the sausage was made. Although I’m sure there had to have been some convo there. If he didn’t ask her, that would be very bold, being that she’s my best friend and an incredible jewelry maker and designer.
What type of jewelry were you into as a teenager?
I didn’t have a lot of chances to buy jewelry as a teenager. I wore small silver hoop earrings and a septum ring, which is miraculously still open.
What was your first major jewelry purchase?
An Art Deco diamond-and-onyx pendant I bought at Grays Antique Market in London.
Are you passionate about family heirlooms when it comes to jewelry?
My dad gave me a pair of Victorian bangles when I was 19 or 20 for my birthday. I had never had any Victorian jewelry—nobody ever bought me any jewelry. I don’t know why my dad was finally very generous, because it wasn’t like we had any money or anything [laughs]. But him buying the bangles for me actually started my love of collecting Victorian jewelry, which I have a lot of now.
What about your mother? Was she a big jewelry enthusiast?
My mom never had a ton of jewelry, but she treasured the things she did have, which made me love jewelry, too. As a teenager, if I had auditions in Midtown Manhattan, we would go through the Diamond District and look at all the windows. She collected pieces here and there, and I think I got that from her. I remember we were shooting a movie called Love Song for Bobby Long in New Orleans, and my mom was the one who showed me all the Victorian, Art Deco, and antique jewelry stores in the area. She loved hunting for little treasures, and now, I’m also a magpie.