Just like Marisol Nichols herself, every jewel she put on from the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) Spectrum & Cutting Edge Awards photo shoot made a strong statement. Powerful pieces, like a platinum, diamond, and black opal riviere from Lightning Ridge Collection by John Ford—with blue-green stunners the size of quarters—met an equally elegant and fierce match in Nichols, an actress whose troubled youth polished up as beautifully as a rough gem and paved the way for serious acting and personal commitments. Sobering roles like special agent Nadia Yassir in “24” help the Illinois native maintain a tough-as-nails exterior while her personal crusade to fight child sex slavery in her nonprofit Foundation for a Slavery Free World cements her status as both a beauty and a badass with a love of statement-making jewelry.
“I’ll often wear one statement necklace or bracelet that ties my whole outfit together,” she explained in a phone call about her affinity for focal-point jewels.
While jewelry in Nichols’ professional life ranges from humble on her “24” character to outrageous on Hermione Lodge from the dramatic series “Riverdale”—”Hermione complains about not having enough money while wearing a five-bedroom house on her finger,” Nichols concedes with an eye roll most certainly accompanying her proclamation—accessories in her personal life are more understated.
Frequently worn items include two pairs of gold hoop earrings, one thin and delicate, the other thicker and huggie style. “I also have a long chain necklace that I love and have worn over a sweater or with a blazer,” she adds.
Nichols’ top choices include timeless styles in karat gold that don’t overpower, though she has been known to don the occasional trendy look. Think mismatched earrings—”I have worn two different earrings, one long and one short, and it was very cool!” she says—as well as ear cuffs.
One of her favorite pastimes in Vancouver, where she can often be found filming projects, is attending craft fairs. “I love to support local craftsman,” she says. There’s one artist in particular whom she seeks out every year for her “pounded gold” pieces. More jewelry gifts include small gold Roman pendants and pieces that remind of her museum exhibits. “I like things that convey history,” she says. Three years ago, she bought herself some emeralds in Venice during a work trip. “Every time I pull them out, I’m reminded of the history and being there.”
As far as colors, Nichols chooses jewel tones every time. “I don’t like too many pastels, like pinks or baby blue,” she concedes.
For stylist Tod Hallman, who dressed Nichols on the day of AGTA’s shoot, soft hues weren’t on the menu. “Jewel colors looked great on her because of her skin tone,” he says of selections that included plenty of emeralds, sapphires, Paraiba tourmalines, and opals. Despite all the robust shades on set, a few lilac and peach hues slyly made their way into some photos, including a kunzite ring in rose gold by Oliver Smith Jeweler and a massive strand of natural-color baroque-shape freshwater pearls from A & Z Pearls, which took the Best Use of Pearls prize. The raison d’etre for the rosy suspects? To complement a Bordeaux-color halter neck gown by Aidan Mattox Dress. It didn’t hurt that the pearls were playful—a necessary addition to balance out Nichols’ “confident, fun presence,” explained Hallman. Plus, the pearl strand had a pair of lustrous and metallic companions married with csarite, zircon, and diamonds in a long, swingy pair of rose gold earrings by Pamela Froman.
More fun was had when Nichols traded her top for an open animal-print tuxedo blazer punctuated by an Erica Courtney-made uber-flirty 105.99 ct. emerald pendant in a scrollwork yellow gold cage with diamonds. (This piece earned the top prize in the Business and Day Wear category.) Hallman suspected he was dealing with a great personality when Nichols arrived in a white T-shirt and wide-leg jeans and carrying a nifty bag. “She is a very stylish woman,” he says of the moment when his fashion plan for her crystallized. “I thought, ‘let’s do feminine and sexy’, and she said, ‘Let’s do this look without a blouse.'”
While Hallman’s couture certainly helped set the mood for each photo, the jewelry, of course—and how Nichols responded to each piece—was the highlight. The common denominator was that all the jewels made her feel elegant and refined. “The jewelry made me want to have very good manners,” she joked. Her faves? The opal necklace and the Best of Show ring in platinum and 18k yellow gold with a 7.16 ct. Russian emerald by Joseph Ambalu of Amba Gem Corp. “I get why people collect,” said Nichols in a dreamy recollection of her time wearing the gems. “That ring was insane.”
According to Doug Hucker, CEO of AGTA, who was also present during the shoot and had the privilege of placing each jewel on the actress, sharing its backstory in the process, Nichols looked like she truly enjoyed wearing the jewelry. “You see entirely different personalities come out when stylists set up looks, and sometimes stars look like entirely different people depending on what they’re wearing,” he maintains. “But Marisol had a consistently beautiful allure regardless of what she had on.” – Jennifer Heebner.