For many collectors and dealers, home party jewelry is all about Sarah Coventry. And yes, the business prolifically sold jewelry through home showings for many years with party hostesses earning free and discounted jewelry just for inviting a few friends over.
But did you know there was a higher end line associated with Sarah Coventry? Were you aware that some pieces made by the makers of Juliana jewelry were also sold through home party representatives? And did you know the “rare” pieces of vintage home party jewelry are examples that didn’t sell well originally?
Find out more about this unique facet of collectible jewelry that has been around since the late 1940s and is still going strong.
SARAH COVENTRY AND EMMONS
Sarah Coventry and Emmons are both brands created by the Stuart family of C.H. Stuart Co., a pioneering direct sales business. The jewelry sector of their firm was established in the late 1940s in Newark, New York, a hamlet in the Finger Lakes area of the state. The resulting companies were named after Stuart family members. Caroline Emmons was Charles Stuart’s wife and Sarah Coventry Beale was their great-granddaughter.
Sarah Coventry and Emmons designs were also both marketed through home “fashion shows.” Emmons was introduced first with price points that were a bit higher than Sarah Coventry’s when the pieces were new. Today, however, Sarah Coventry is the more recognizable name among jewelry aficionados. Both lines are low to moderately collectible today depending on the design since some were produced in greater quantities than others.
The success of Sarah Coventry’s “fashion directors” and the party-plan sales model is exemplified by the huge variety of jewelry sold by the company over more than three decades in business. Both Emmons and Sarah Coventry closed in the early 1980s. Sarah Coventry was later revived but the new company, which never saw the success found in the brand’s early years, went out of business in 2009.
Several books have been written detailing Sarah Coventry and Emmons lines including Identifying Sarah Coventry Jewelry, 1949-2009 by Sandra Sturdivant, Jewelry from Sarah Coventry and Emmons by Kay Oshel, and Emmons & Sarah Coventry: Jewelry Fashion Show by Deborah A. Robinson.
Judy-Lee jewelry was a division of a Chicago-based company called Blanch-ette, Inc. The company was named after the daughter of Blanche and Aldo Viano who started the business in 1949. Judy-Lee jewelry was also marketed at home parties throughout the 1950s and ‘60s.
Jewelry sold by jewelry Judy-Lee reps was presented to consumers in branded boxes that were either black or bright pink. Many of the jewelry pieces, however, are unmarked. In the case of brooches and earrings, most were made using metal filigree backings with stone cups held in place by a bevy of swedged rivets. Collectors learn to recognize these pieces with practice but should be mindful of unmarked designs by Beau Jewels were made using similar techniques and materials.
Other Judy-Lee pieces can sometimes be matched up with signed earrings or verified designs using specific stones like molded glass leaves or watermelon (officially named Vitrail Medium II) rhinestones. Collectors consider these pieces to be mid-range in terms of desirability.
TARA FIFTH AVENUE
Tara Fifth Avenue was established in the late 1950s to early ‘60s. The company, as the name implies, was originally located in New York, New York. The business moved to Garden Grove, California in the mid-1960s. A gentleman named Daniel O’Farrell was the firm’s president, and he employed Fred Lebwohl to oversee design and development.
Jewelry signed Tara was also marketed by fashion directors who worked the home party sales model. The pieces sold by this company were made by several different manufacturers, and they likely produced some of their own branded jewelry after the move to California, as noted in a feature on the Costume Jewelry Collectors Int’l website. Frank DeLizza has also confirmed that DeLizza & Elster (D&E) jobbed for the company and a number of these lines were featured in mid-1960s Tara catalogs.
Among these pieces are the ubiquitous necklaces, bracelets, and earrings featuring dangling crystal beads in a variety of colors including clear, iridescent, and amber that were called “Fantasia” by Tara. These are some of the most plentiful pieces of D&E jewelry, and their popularity with home party customers is likely the reason collectors find them so readily today.
Others are identified in Ann Mitchell Pitman’s book “Juliana Jewelry Reference” as containing “rose Limoges” stones. In Tara catalogs these were named “Evening Rose.” Jewelry with dangling black beads and clear rhinestones was called “Jet Flight.” While a few recognizable D&E styles have been found marked Tara, most are unmarked unless found with an original Tara paper hang tag still attached.
Another home party brand, Celebrity, purchased jewelry from DeLizza & Elster as well. Even less is known about this company based in Brooklyn, New York although some jewelry collectors do recall going to Celebrity parties back in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Most of the jewelry sold by this company was on par with Sarah Coventry designs although some D&E pieces were made for Celebrity, as mentioned in The Art of Juliana Jewelry by Katerina Musetti. Many feature glass cameos in gold plated filigree settings or colorful Moroccan matrix stones.
All the pieces made by D&E, whether for Tara or Celebrity, are usually sold as “Juliana” today when they are unmarked. These are graded higher than average in terms of desirability among collectors when it comes to home party jewelry.
HOME PARTY JEWELRY SINCE 1980s
Many other home party businesses have flourished since the 1980s. One of the most successful was Premier Designs, Inc. The company was in business from 1985 through 2020. Premier reps would ask party guests to come unadorned and then add jewelry to complement their clothing exhibiting what a difference accessories can make in completing an outfit. Pieces sold by this company are usually marked with a script PD topped by a crown and surrounded by a garland wreath.
Lia Sophia, a company founded by Victor Kiam in 1985 as Lady Remington, was rebranded in 2004. After 30 years in business, the firm shuttered in 2015. The on-trend jewelry marketed by this company also sold very well including their top-tier line, the Kiam Family Collection.
In 1997, Teresa Walsh and Jerry Kelly formed Silpada specializing in sterling silver jewelry. When they sold the business to Avon in 2010, they had more than 30,000 representatives. The founders repurchased the business a few years later, and then eliminated the home party sales model when joining Richline Group in 2016.
Another company founded in 2007, Stella and Dot, is still in business with “Stylists” selling their jewelry in home party settings. Even the super successful contemporary jewelry designer Kendra Scott jumped on the party wagon in early 2022 offering direct sales reps a chance to be their own boss.
While much of the jewelry offered through these companies is still fashionable and some qualifies as vintage, their lines were all sold in mass quantities. Many examples can be garnered for bargain prices today although some will likely be categorized as true collectibles in the future.