As red-carpet appearances go, it was certainly a case of putting your money where your mouth is.
Turning heads — and possibly a few stomachs — Angelina Jolie did what she does best, shocking onlookers by wearing a metal chin cuff to the premiere of her latest film.
Hooked inside her lower lip and running down to beneath her chin, the 14-carat-gold gobsmacker was an unexpected addition to Angelina’s otherwise understated outfit.
But it’s not the first time she has paraded an unusual adornment. This is the woman, after all, whose idea of marital devotion was to wear a vial of her second husband Billy Bob Thornton’s blood around her neck.
So is this a weird but wonderful new direction for jewellery design, or just an oddity chosen to attract maximum publicity for Angelina’s new movie, Eternals?
Perhaps the most surprising thing about her mouthpiece is that she’s not, in fact, the first to wear the style.
British singer Paloma Faith was dubbed worst-dressed guest after she sported a pair of gold chin rings to the Q Awards in London in 2017.
And Beyonce wore a larger version of Angie’s cuff by the same designer for her Spirit video. ‘This is an iteration of the face mask I did for Beyonce,’ says Texan jewellery designer Nina Berenato. Nina says her creation was inspired by superheroes and Greek and Roman gods.
‘These designs are removable accessories rather than a permanent piercing,’ explains jewellery historian, expert and collector Beth Bernstein, who says the chin cuff is customised by pressing it into the contours of the face.
‘One purpose of jewellery throughout time has been to show your role in society. It has also been used as an amulet or talisman, from antiquity to now,’ says Bernstein. ‘And while in modern times wearing jewellery is more about individuality than showing your role in society, what still holds true is that jewellery is meant to adorn with beauty or meaning and complement, not distract from, your own natural beauty.’
So what does she think of Angelina’s red-carpet look? ‘Sadly, it’s not a beautiful piece of jewellery — it just looks like it’s trying to hold her chin up.’
So why did Angelina wear it?
‘It’s aggressive, it’s boundary-pushing, but without altering her appearance permanently. She did something that would get people talking,’ says Bernstein, before adding: ‘Although can Angelina really talk with this on? Can she eat with it on? It looks uncomfortable.’ More gobstopper than gobsmacker, then!
The slightly otherworldly mandible bangle seems to borrow from the burgeoning celebrity trend for removable lip rings and grillz (teeth jewellery). Generally considered a hip-hop phenomenon, grillz actually date back to the Etruscans in Italy in 800 BC, when women had their front teeth removed and fitted with replacements held together with a gold band as a display of wealth, power and beauty.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be shocked, then, that Kim Kardashian, Madonna, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus are fans — or that Justin Beiber wore a £20,000 diamond-encrusted set on his wedding day.
Brand strategist Wizz Selvey thinks there could be even more to it: ‘After almost two years of covering our mouths with masks, an expression and celebration of this area seems apt.’
And despite the fact she’s no fan of Angelina’s bauble, Beth Bernstein says the A-lister’s star power could mean they will catch on.
‘Everyone wants to tell a story with their jewellery — and her story is that she doesn’t play it safe.
‘Angelina can perhaps push the boundaries of what’s perceived as beautiful, simply because she is beautiful.’