Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Joseff of Hollywood

During the Golden Era of films, there was a man that thought the jewelry the actors wore in the movies weren't good enough. So he decided to start a business, creating better costume jewelry for the stars. His name was Eugene Joseff, but eventually he, and his jewelry, became so famous he legally changed his name to simply Joseff.

Joseff and his Jimmy Glaser with their jewelry.

In a warehouse in Burbank, Joseff of Hollywood's studio still exists - full of all the jewelry he created, and then rented to different movie makers. When he started his business it was with the purpose of creating the most historically correct costume jewelry possible! With this in mind Joseff started reading up on history and going through heaps of old magazines. He also traveled a lot, visiting museums where he could study old pieces from the Renaissance and other time periods more closely.

Grace Kelly in High Society from 1956, wearing Joseff of Hollywood earrings.

Before Joseff came along, jewelry didn't really appear so much in movies. But now his wares became more and more popular. I the 30s and 40s Joseff of Hollywood was supplying over 90 percent of the jewelry used in movies.

Joseff and Katherine Wilson in his workshop.

In the mid-30s many actresses asked Joseff for copies of the pieces they had worn in the movies, so they could wear them i their private lives too. Women who weren't in the movies, but read about the glamorous stars in the magazines also coveted these gems. Noticing this, Joseff thought; "Why shouldn't we make every woman in the world feel like a movie star?" So around 1937 his business went into retail, selling at stores like Nordstrom's, Macy's, Saks, and Neiman Marcus.

In 1948 though, Joseff - now 42 years old - died when he crashed his own plane. Joan, his wife and partner, then took over the business, which she kept going until her death at age 97, in 2010.

Ona Munson wearing "the most spectacular necklace in the world" in Shanghai Gesture.

By the 70s big costume jewelry had gone out of style in movies. The Golden Era wasn't over just in the film-world, but also for Joseff of Hollywood. During WWII Joseff had also started another company though - Precision Investment Castings - where he used his skills in metalworking to develop techniques for manufacturing airplane-parts. So when his jewelry business faded, his plane-parts business - now also creating pieces for NASA space crafts - thrived.

Katharine Hepburn wearing a Joseff dual brooch in Sea of Grass, 1947.

Nowadays Joseff's business is still being run by his family. The jet-part sales takes up about 95 percent of the company, but there are still 5 percent of jewelry in there. These can be found in specialty boutiques, and sometimes in a few movies, like the first Pirates of the Caribbean, and in Harvey Keitel's The Last Godfather.

Left: Faux pearl necklace worn by Bette Davis in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, 1939. Right: The choker Greta Garbo refused to wear in 1936s Camille. It was too spiky and cut her neck.

Some pieces can still be rented - if you take really good care of them. Others are being put on display in museums around the whole world, like treasures from the most opulent era in moviemaking. 

Rhett Butler's cigar case and belt buckle, and Scarlet O'Hara's jewelry from Gone With the Wind.

I wouldn't mind spending a week or two in this studio. Looking at - and trying on - everything!

Joseff's wife Joan with their finest jewels spread out on her dress.

All photos from Joseff of Hollywood.


  1. Wow, the necklace worn by Ona Munson is stunning. How I would love to own just one of these pieces. M x

  2. Grace Kelly truly is a beautiful woman, thanks for sharing these awesome photos as usual Miss Meadows.

  3. I had seen Joseff jewelry for years and never knew the back story. Thanks so much for the research, and for sharing.

  4. What marvelous delights!! I love Grace Kelly, such a beauty!! I love the one picture that shows the price range of the jewels. Shame it isn't the same, I could buy all of them easily, haha!! Hope you have a sweet day doll! xx


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