Let's take a look at some of the famous designers of vintage costume jewellery ...
In the late 1920s, Eugene Joseff (1905-1948) decided to leave his advertising career in the Midwest of America in search of bigger and better opportunities. He commenced his career as a foundry apprentice and then began experimenting with making jewellery in his home garage.
Hollywood was booming at the time and after much research, Eugene came to realise that the jewellery being adorned by movie actresses was not necessarily relevant to the era that was being portrayed. He went on to amass a huge reference library of designs by era and used this as inspiration for the jewellery range he went on to develop for the film industry.
Eugene developed a special matte metal finish for his jewellery which was particularly helpful in minimising the glare from strong studio lights. Due to this unique feature and his incredible jewellery collection, it wasn't long before he became Hollywood's premier costume jeweller: designing, manufacturing and renting jewellery to movie studios under his brand name, Joseff of Hollywood. He created exquisite pieces for famous actresses such as Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express, Greta Garbo in Camille, and Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind.
As the public were now seeing the beautiful jewellery produced by Joseff of Hollywood, they wanted to purchase similar pieces to wear in their everyday lives. Joseff soon realised the lucrative potential of a retail line which he began to sell in high end department stores. At this time he also employed a manager to handle his day-to-day affairs ... Joan Castle, who Eugene eventually married in 1942.
With the advancement of WW11, the US Government began seeking out private factories with capabilities that would help the war effort. With his casting operations Joseff’s factory was perfect, so his company began to make small aerospace parts for the military. The factory prided itself on producing everything from jewellery to jets.
With great sadness, Eugene Joseff died suddenly in a plane crash in 1948, not long after the birth of his only son Jeffrey. His wife Joan took over control of the company, becoming President and running the entire aerospace department as well as the jewellery line. Joan Castle Joseff passed away in 2010 at the age of 97 and her family have continued to run the business. Her daughter from a previous marriage, Michele, assisted with the jewellery department for a few years and her son Jeff Joseff Jr. moved from casting to jewellery and then on to management. The family continues to run the business to this day.
Much of Eugene's jewellery from the wonderful Hollywood heydays of the 1950s and 1960s has become highly collectable ... as has the wonderful pieces sold throughout America in the department stores. They're beautifully made and highly collectable.