Thursday, June 5, 2014

Signed by Design - DeLizza & Elster's Juliana Jewelry

By Andrea Nellis, owner of Hip Cricket

Collecting vintage jewelry has been a passion of mine since I was old enough to travel my neighbourhood and visit the garage sales and swap meets that sprung up each weekend due to the mild California weather. In fact one of my earliest recollections is from a yard sale where I hounded my mother for 25 cents to buy a flocked puppy dog head bobber. Over the years, my tastes moved from head bobbers to anything and everything sparkly and nothing sparkles quite like Juliana.
As I grew my jewelry collection I learned about labels, designers, styles and eras. As with
many a budding collector, I tried to find signed pieces wherever possible.  There were, of course, standouts - items so beautiful that, despite the lack of a signature, I bought them on sight.
Over time I saw that many of the unsigned pieces in my collection had certain things in common. Was it possible that the same company made them all? The breakthrough came with an unsigned brooch I purchased with a foil tag. The name on the tag? Juliana! I felt the wool drop from my eyes.  Gathering up all my unsigned beauties, I compared them to the "known" examples. After ruling out about 80% of the pieces, I saw the remainder had so many commonalties such as design style, construction and quality of materials. After all these years I finally had my answer. 
Juliana was designed by DeLizza and Elster, a high-end costume jewelry
manufacturer. Designers William DeLizza and Harold Elster founded the DeLizza & Elster Company (D&E) around 1947D&E was primarily a contract manufacturer for other designers and it is not uncommon to see a vintage piece of jewelry clearly signed by another designer showing many of the tell tale signs that it was made by D&E. Juliana jewelry is highly prized by collectors due to the quality and scarcity, having been in production for only two years from 1968 – 69.
If you suspect you have a piece or want to be able to identify Juliana while shopping, it is important to take into consideration the whole
Courtesy of Hip Cricket, Personal Collection
piece as well as the component parts to determine whether the item in question is authentic.  First, feel its heft. Juliana pieces have a solid build with some weight to them.   Note the appeal.  High quality art stones, crystals and rhinestones were used in layered or stacked designs. Usually there is a lot going on in these pieces. Bracelets and necklaces often have a five-link construction. Hardware is generally built-in rather than soldered or riveted.  Clasps on bracelets may be engraved with designs. I've yet to see a piece of Juliana which I could call boring!

Courtesy of Art4U2Buy
Second, understand the construction details.  Juliana features built-in pin backs rather than ones that are soldered or riveted. Open back settings may either show the stone or be foiled. On closed back settings look for "figure 8" or "peanut" puddling, where the solder has been over-poured or in the case of rhinestone pieces appearing as though it were a peanut shape.
While understanding these design traits, it is important to keep in mind that these are simply guidelines. Other designers also used these types of construction methods and not every Juliana followed these rules.
Courtesy of lauraab51
Now days, it is fairly easy to verify Juliana jewelry since many books, websites and blogs exist for just such a reason.  Most importantly Juliana pieces are very much high-end and the quality shines through in every piece I see.

Courtesy of RenaissanceFair

Regardless of names, designers, eras or styles, the most important factor in building a jewelry collection is, “Do I like it?” Everything else is secondary. Yes, signed items might be more valuable than unsigned items.  However as Juliana proves, it is just as important that a piece of vintage jewelry is signed - by design.

Courtesy of Worn2Perfection

Find your special piece of Juliana from the Vintage Jewelry Team.

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