Revenge: character studies in jewelry

Oh, just admit it. You’re watching Revenge, that Sunday night soap that takes place in the Hamptons. I started watching season one on Netflix after some women I know confessed their addiction, and even though I laughed at the melodrama, I got hooked enough to start watching the current season. I’m having as much fun analyzing the jewelry on Revenge as I did with The Good Wife.

If you haven’t watched but plan to (it’s also available on DVD), skip to the pretty pictures because there are spoilers ahead. Really though, if you’re wondering what’s going to happen next, just ask yourself what would have happened on As the World Turns when your grandmother watched it. It will probably involve amnesia, a coma, mistaken identities, guns being pulled in the middle of gentile dinners, elaborate eavesdropping, or someone dying and then – voila! – appearing in the next scene with barely a scratch.

Here’s Ashley. In season one, she’s the necessary but disrespected right-hand woman for Victoria, wealthy and devious matriarch at the center of the drama. In season two, Ashley switches sides to the men in the family, working for head of the family business, Conrad Grayson, and dating Grayson, Jr., and thus moves up a notch.

Ashley is played by Ashley Madekwe, who has a fashion blog that reveals her love for… really big earrings. Which makes me wonder if they let Ashley choose her own wardrobe on this show. In the first season, she wears the boldest, wildest jewelry of any of the women. She’s sort of a would-be Samantha Jones of Sex & the City fame, wearing big pointy things that hint at the invisible daggers she’d like to use on all the wealthy people she has to kiss up to.

When she gains status in the family biz and moves into the media spotlight, her jewelry becomes more conservative. She’s wearing little pearl studs early in season two, before she gets confident enough to return to big, embellished hoops – still bold, less lethal.

The only other non-WASP, working-class, bold jewelry wearer on this show is Amanda… Well, she’s actually Emily but switched identities with the real Amanda who then became Emily… Oh, never mind. Amanda is deliciously slutty. The first time we see her she’s pole-dancing in an S&M ensemble. Then she moves to the Hamptons to stalk the real Amanda/Emily, her former cellmate. She always wears this heavy chain with a charm pendant dangling between her breasts. It’s a cryptic hint of her past, which only the real Amanda knows.

She also favors big earrings, having lots of big, very long hair to hide them. Unlike Ashley, who goes for geometric sculptural forms, Ashley’s earrings are always curvy, earthy and natural – like her.

Seeing what the women on this show wear from one scene to the next is a primary component of the guilty pleasure of Revenge, along with the interiors of their homes, several flavors of boy candy, shots of beach grass blowing in front of the cottage where Emily lives (reminds me of Nantucket where I once spent a summer) and aerial shots of the sprawling Grayson Manor.

Exactly how sprawling comes out when Conrad Grayson tells his estranged wife Victoria – played by the awesome Madeleine Stowe (a reason to watch right there) – that they should be able to live under one roof, since that roof happens to be 20,000 square feet. “Twenty-four thousand,” she says, then begins giggling hysterically. (She’s had a lot of cognac.) He laughs too. First and only moment I found myself actually liking these people, when they’re laughing at the absurd overabundance of their own lives.

I find myself laughing too. Example from season one: After getting busted for sleeping with Victoria’s husband, the character played by Amber Valletta (right) is chased by the Graysons’ henchman and falls in slow motion off a 5-story Manhattan building, landing beautifully dead on a cab parked below – an homage to that famous Life photo? But wait. It turns out she’s only in a coma, from which she awakens, looking lovely – but with amnesia. Did I mention she’s in bed in Victoria’s house, being fed lobster bisque by Victoria? Seriously.

In season two, it’s 9-month pregnant Amanda who falls to her apparent death (thanks to evil Victoria), winds up in a coma, then appears with baby, both beautifully intact. At this point, I didn’t even blink, suspension of disbelief officially frozen.

Okay, let’s look at their jewelry. Perhaps because she’s faking her identity as a squeaky-clean aristocrat and has to be careful to stay on cue, Emily’s jewelry is tasteful and subtle in season one. As she gets more comfortable in season two, her jewelry and decolletage grow increasingly bolder. But she remains, as her partner-in-revenge Nolan puts it, an impeccably-dressed sociopath.

Charlotte, mischievous and spoiled teenage Grayson daughter (Emily/Amanda’s half-sister, as it turns out) favors delicate, feminine necklaces and over-sized, colorful costume earrings. She stays well away from the diamond-and-pearl status jewels favored by her mother. (She’s daddy’s girl, at least until he finds out he’s not her daddy).

At the “Fire & Ice” engagement party, for example, Charlotte (left) wears chandelier-style  danglers with her red gown while Emily opts for classical gold. That night, Emily also wears the beautiful pink diamond engagement ring from her toothsome fiancé, Daniel Grayson, on one hand and a gold starfish on the other.


Jewelry plays an important role in Victoria’s life. Her cheating husband spends the first few episodes trying to buy her back with diamond jewels. But the ones she treasures most are earrings from the love of her life, Emily’s father, whose death Victoria and her husband caused (thus, the REVENGE). After a flashback reveals this memory, we notice she wears these earrings when she’s particularly annoyed with her husband – which is often. But the most interesting story involves Victoria’s pearls. Being a classic WASP, Victoria wears pearls a lot. Usually some version of this:

Notice Madeleine’s eyes are brimming with tears, a state her character is in whenever she’s not smilingly delivering some kiss-of-death statement. (Her ability to morph from one extreme to the other probably has something to do with her Golden Globe nomination this year.) Note also the multi-strand pearls, carefully coordinated with her ladylike summer cardigan.

But the episode where I really noticed Victoria’s pearls was the one where, in the midst of the chaos, she runs into an old beau and falls into bed with him. This is Victoria earlier in that episode wearing her pearls like battle armor:

In the next scene, she’s facing her trauma like a good socialite by downing expensive liquor in a bar. Notice her pearls (like Victoria herself) have come undone, that is, they’re no longer knotted and they’ve grown a tassel that points seductively to her cleavage.

She runs into a hunky artist from her past who calls her “Vicky,” revealing that he knew her in her pre-socialite days. They have a torrid roll in his artist loft. But look! Her pearls are still on!

Here is Vicky/Victoria freshly emerged from bed. Notice the pearls draped over her shoulder, tousled like her hair.

That cell phone call she got in bed (half the drama on this show involves some kind of mobile device) draws her back to the soap opera that is her life. One last shot of Victoria, still wearing a sheet – but the pearls have been rearranged so she looks more like she’s wearing a strapless gown, her socialite mask falling back into place over the bedroom eyes.

Moral of this story: If you want to stay wealthy and powerful, never let your guard down and don’t take off your pearls in the loft of a struggling artist. Even if he does still have the portrait he painted of you 25 years ago.

Related posts:

Sex & the City: the jewelry

The Good Wife: character studies in jewelry

A brief history of pearls

Best jewelry heist movies of the past half-century

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6 comments for “Revenge: character studies in jewelry

  1. November 27, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Loved this post! I have been intrigued by the jewelry in this show and the incredible styling of personalities, much like you describe. I was actually a bit frustrated that no one elso was commenting about it. Around here we are still watching season 1 and I like the way Victoria is changing the type of jewelry post-separation: a bit more romantic/fragile but also armour like, with her neck covered with the long necklaces.
    Now, the pearls are VERY appealing.
    Any idea on the brands that have been pulled for the show?

  2. Cathleen McCarthy
    November 27, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Thanks for owning up, Silvia! People have been contacting me offline about this post. Are we the only ones brave enough to admit we’re watching? As for brands, I’m still digging. There’s a bit on the fashions – Vera Wang, Valentino, Gucci, Christian Dior – and Emily’s Rolex, but I’m not finding much on jewelry. Victoria is definitely getting bolder and darker with the pearls – Tahitian and South Sea are her go-to now.

  3. November 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Ah, Ah! Indeed, not very intelectual… Nevertheless, for me it’s a precious little bit of USA, for when I miss the real thing (kind of often I confess).
    I’m growing founder of pearls – age, I guess – and Tahitian are my favorite. They are mysterious… Tassels give the whole thing a modern look, don’t they?
    Another “very literate” TV show with great jewelry: Gossip Girl.

  4. Lilly
    April 1, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Revenge fashion is phenomenal! I’m obsessed with Kim Lee Ozawa’s jewelry that Emily wears a lot this season. Absolutely gorgeous

  5. hayjulz
    April 22, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Victoria wore them again on Sunday night’s episode with the tassel hanging on the lowest loop. On another site I saw Samira 13 listed as the designer for the dark pearls and her line does look similar… I found some similar ones on Ebay for $39 but it’s a double tassel made out of smaller pearls.

  6. Gao
    December 30, 2015 at 4:04 am

    Hello. I’m not sure if I’ll get a response but I thought I’d try…:)

    I was wondering if you knew who the designer is, or can find out who made Margaux’s earrings in the episode titled Atonement? They were a hoop style earring with what appears to be a dagger dangling in the middle. They are beautiful and I cannot find anything online to point me to who makes the earrings.

    Thank you.

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