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Over the past 30 years I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many people associated with the costume jewelry industry. So many were warm, personable, and generous with their knowledge.

Tina Joseff – who delighted Costume Jewelry Collectors Int’l (CJCI) convention attendees on several occasions both as speaker and by displaying a portion of the incredible Joseff of Hollywood movie-worn jewelry – is one of those remarkable individuals.

Joseff of Hollywood Venus Tears necklace

Limited edition “Venus Tears” necklace/earrings set marked Joseff in script, 2015. Value: $650-$750

As both a collector of the jewelry and a fan of the firm, it is my pleasure to share more on this noteworthy company long-known for costume jewels worn on film by Hollywood’s elite.

A Brief History of Joseff of Hollywood

Seeing inaccurate representations of jewelry worn in movies prompted Eugene Joseff to change the way Tinseltown viewed reproductions of period adornment. He established Joseff of Hollywood in 1928 and created a metal plating process that helped eliminate the glare caused by studio lighting. This endeavor paid off, and he soon began providing costume jewelry designs to many well-known film production companies.

Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra

Elizabeth Taylor wears Joseff of Hollywood jewelry in the 1963 film epic,"Cleopatra."

After Eugene Joseff died in 1948, his wife Joan Castle Joseff very capably took over the business and continued to produce the company’s retail lines that were first marketed in the late 1930s along with renting jewelry to film productions. As an astute businesswoman who knew how to get a point across, she would send invoices for $10,000 to the studios when production jewelry wasn’t returned in a timely fashion. The “forgotten” pieces would soon be found and delivered to Joseff’s offices.

The list of stars who were costumed in Joseff of Hollywood designs is a veritable who’s who of influential actresses and leading men working from the 1930s through the 1960s. Fans of Gone with the Wind see Vivian Leigh and Ona Munson wearing Joseff jewelry along with Clark Gable using a Joseff cigar case in the film. Several of these items – along with tiaras, crowns, and jewelry worn by Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Temple, and dozens of others – were auctioned in 2017 but many other examples remain in the company’s archives.

Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Marilyn Monroe in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," a 1953 film featuring Joseff of Hollywood jewelry. 

One striking tasseled collar necklace and bracelet set donned by Lucille Ball back in the day is still owned by Joseff of Hollywood. That set was recently worn by Nicole Kidman as she portrayed Ball in the movie Being the Ricardos. The subject of the film makes the connection even more apropos since many pieces of Joseff jewelry appeared in the “I Love Lucy” television series in the 1950s. Joseff jewelry was also used during the past few years in the television productions “Hollywood” on Netflix and HBO’s “Westworld.”

Eugene Joseff

Eugene Joseff with costume jewelry pieces rented to Hollywood studios. The jeweled belt at left was first worn by Rudolph Valentino. 

Joseff’s retail jewelry lines also remain in production today. What makes these pieces unique in comparison to other newly made jewelry? The main components were purchased by Eugene Joseff in the ’30s and ’40s, stored in the company’s warehouse, and tapped for jewelry production over the decades since then. When a stash of parts is depleted, the related designs are retired. Each piece is also finished with same proprietary in-house plating formula developed more than 90 years ago.

When Joan Castle Joseff died at the age of 97 in 2010, her daughter-in-law Tina Joseff took the reins of the company as president and chief operating officer. Her son Jeff Joseff is vice president, and his wife Kristin Joseff now serves as managing director.

Joseff of Hollywood Bulldog Necklace

Bulldog necklace marked Joseff in script, c. 2010. Value: $250-$300.

More About the Jewelry

Most of the Joseff jewelry found by collectors today was made from the late 1940s onward as part of the company’s retail lines. These designs fit for Hollywood royalty are often quite bold. Eye-catching dangle earrings, oversized brooches, and amazing collar and bib style necklaces have long been staples in the Joseff design catalog.

Other favorites among collectors are the many figurals incorporated into Joseff jewelry. From bees and cats to roosters and dogs, these pieces are both fun to wear and attention-grabbing. Embellishments can be sparse since the “Russian gold” plating is the star of the show, although some designs do include unfoiled rhinestones or larger glass elements. A limited amount of silver-plated jewelry has also been produced by Joseff, but that process was retired in 2013.

Joseff of Hollywood dress clip

Dress clip marked JOSEFF HOLLYWOOD in a custom design, c. 1940. Value: $300-$350. 

One stand-out design among fans of Joseff jewelry is the Sungod. The original Sungod brooch, gifted to his wife by Eugene Joseff, was made of 18 karat gold with dangling diamond eyes. Joan Castle Joseff deemed it her favorite piece of jewelry and a gold-plated version with rhinestone eyes was added to the company’s offerings. Sungod necklaces and earrings have also been made in a few different variations although more recently than the brooches first made in the ‘40s.

Joseff of Hollywood Sungod

Sungod necklace marked Joseff in script, c. 2010. Value: $1,400-$1,600

Understanding Joseff of Hollywood Marks

When Eugene Joseff started marketing a retail line of jewelry in the late 1930s, the pieces were marked JOSEFF HOLLYWOOD in block lettering. Most of these were new designs although a few were duplicates of Joseff jewelry worn in motion pictures. This mark was used through the 1940s.

Joseff of Hollywood bracelet

Bracelet marked JOSEFF HOLLYWOOD, 1940s. Value: $375-$425.

Moving into the ’50s, the mark on the retail line changed to script lettering that matches Joseff’s signature logo. These can be on a round plaque or stamped directly into the jewelry. A similar mark on a round cartouche has been used by the company in recent decades although the lettering varies slightly in comparison.

Collectors also look for patina and wear that comes with age to distinguish older Joseff jewelry from newer pieces. All Joseff jewelry is considered highly collectible and many pieces hold considerable value regardless of the age.

Learning More

A suggested book for gleaning more on this famed brand is Jewelry from the Stars: The Creations of Joseff of Hollywood which was written by Joann Dubbs Ball with the assistance of Joan Castle Joseff. While it is not comprehensive, pieces from the Joseff retail line are highlighted and many celebrity photos are included as well.

Joseff of Hollywood

Treasures from the Vault: Joseff of Hollywood at Julien's Auctions, 2017.

The Joseff of Hollywood website at Joseff-Hollywood.com is also well worth a visit for more history, information on the stars who wore Joseff, and other resources (scroll to the bottom to find additional links). Another recommended online resource is an article titled “Remembering the Legendary Joan Castle Joseff” which you can find on the CJCI website, www.costumejewelrycollectors.com.

Enthusiasts dedicated to learning more about Joseff’s movie-worn jewelry can also hunt down a copy of the Julien’s Auctions catalog “Treasures from the Vault: Joseff of Hollywood,” which was issued in conjunction with the 2017 auction sale of the same name.

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