Juliana: The Queen of Mid-Century Costume Bling

My first Juliana was obtained by chance. I’d forgotten this story about finding a surprise when I purchased something until I’d begun preparing this article and omitted it from a recent interview I had with another blogger!

Juliana Set
Way back near the beginning of my adventures in selling and collecting costume jewelry I had purchased a lot of rhinestone jewelry to resell. Among the dozens of pieces in one particular lot was a bracelet that was so fabulous I decided to keep it for research.

It truly fits the sub-title, “Queen of Mid-Century Costume Bling”! The bracelet had what I later learned was five-link construction, and the brightest rhinestones I’d ever seen. There was also a safety chain, which I’d come to recognize as an indication that it was a quality piece.

About a month later I purchased another lot from the same dealer and found the matching earrings in that lot! It took me several months to discover that these pieces were none other than coveted D&E pieces created for the Juliana line, and I’d paid less than a dollar a piece for each! That was the beginning of my Juliana collection.

A Little Introduction to Juliana jewelry

Discovering the origin of any piece of jewelry is an adventure. If you have the heart and mind of a detective it can be satisfying to resolve a mystery surrounding the who, what and where of a piece in your collection, and even more satisfying when you learn you own a highly collectible and valued item. I’ll talk more about strategies to unraveling those questions, but I want to give new collectors a little background information about DeLizza and Elster (D&E).Sarah Cov by Juliana

William DeLizza and Harold Elster began producing costume jewelry in 1947. The company remained in business for more than forty years, producing some of the most collectible costume jewelry to date. They produced items for their own retail collections, and for other jewelry companies. One of the most recognizable sets is this one they produced for Sarah Coventry.

While D&E marked their own items with removable paper tags, at least some of the pieces manufactured for other companies are signed, such as this Sarah Coventry set. D&E manufactured for several other companies, and it’s worth doing research on any piece you think may have been one of their creations.

Learning the Clues to Spotting Juliana Jewelry

When trying to determine the origin of a piece the place to begin is with construction elements. It’s important to note that D&E used quality materials in their creations, the quality of which is obvious even to a casual observer. It’s important because many sellers use the term “Juliana” to refer to any and all rhinestone jewelry, which is incorrect and misleading. The Juliana line, the one we most often associate with D&E, was offered for a relatively short period of time in the 1960s, and all Juliana pieces were specifically designed by, and the property of, DeLizza and Elster.

If the piece you’re looking at has that unmistakable WOW factor, you’ll want to turn it over to see if some of the other construction elements typically associated with D&E are present. Even though these elements may not be exclusive to D&E, they may be a good indication that what you have is the genuine article.

Juliana Watermellon

This set, or demi parure, illustrates the solder puddling and figure eight soldering technique used by the company. The earrings illustrate the use of open back navettes.

juliana soldering
juliana Open back navettes

This demi parure illustrates five-link construction on the bracelet.

juliana 5 Link

Some other elements to look for involve identifying specific hardware, items used such as brooch clasps, earring clips, and bracelet and necklace closures. You can find a great deal of helpful information online, and in published books dedicated to D&E and the Juliana line. You may also want to join our Vintage Jewelry Team and seek out an answer from our discussion thread, “Help With Identification” or our “Vintage Jewelry Research” thread.

Juliana References

Another option is joining an online group dedicated specifically to Juliana to help you with identification.

Three books I’ve used often are

These books are a treasure trove of gorgeous photographs and designed to help you with your quest. Detailed information about the company and products are included.

Info on Starting Your Own Juliana Collection & How to Care For It


Juliana Blue
These last bits of information are about starting a collection and caring for it.

Ultimately parures are what a collector of Juliana wants. If you’re lucky enough to find complete sets, in great shape, and at a price that fits your budget, go for it. Know that prices for completed sets are usually higher than prices for individual pieces within the set.

Putting a set together piecemeal also has merit. When that last elusive piece is found and added to your collection you’ll feel great satisfaction. The only caveat to this method is to be sure the condition of each piece is equal to the others in your set.

Cleaning Tips for Juliana and Other Costume Jewelry

Take care when cleaning and storing your Juliana jewelry. For instance, it is of utmost importance to avoid getting costume jewelry wet, or exposing it to cosmetics or other chemicals. This is true of all costume jewelry but especially true of rhinestone jewelry. Moisture can damage the foil backing on rhinestones. Moisture is the enemy of glued in stones, too, and can result in stones falling out and getting lost. Rings and bracelets are particularly vulnerable due to hand washing and hand application of cosmetics.

When a piece does become soiled you can clean it using a cotton swab and glass cleaner.  Be sure to squeeze all excess liquid from the swab. Leaving it only slightly damp.

Tips for Storing Your Juliana Collection

When storing your jewelry there are a couple of ways I’ve found helpful. You can place each piece in a zip bag to protect it from inadvertent scratches. The zip bag will contain a stone should one pop out. Another method is to place sets in glass top display boxes.

Making sure the depth is ample enough to avoid squashing a piece. Domed brooches need more room than other pieces. If the lid comes in contact with the rhinestones it can scratch the stones. Pressure on the brooch can cause solder to break. Two inch deep boxes are great for thick pieces. Avoid using fiber liners.  Tissue paper is a better choice.

If damage requiring repair does happen, as it does sometimes, don’t throw that damaged piece out. Attempt repairs yourself only if you have necessary skills or equipment. Your local jeweler is probably not going to be able to help you with restoration. But there are people who do professional repairs on costume jewelry.

One such suggestion comes from our blog editor and head writer, Bruce. Who interviewed Melissa from The Jewelry Repair Company after she had done some repairs for him. Feel free follow the link to her website. Here you will find the general information about her background and work. As well as everything you need in order to contact her:

I hope your Juliana collection brings you much joy!

 

Juliana The Queen of Mid-century Costume Bling - The Vintage Jewelry Team: Mid-century Jewelry with that unmistakable WOW factor is always a blast, but is it Juliana? Learn the tips to aid you in your search.
Roxy

12 thoughts on “Juliana: The Queen of Mid-Century Costume Bling

  1. Margie Homan says:

    Great article. I learned a lot. I am pretty sure I only ever had one piece- just one single earring of Juliana. And yes, I didn’t know what I had. Do you know why DeLizza and Elster named the collection Juliana?

    • Roxy Wallace says:

      Ann Pitman’s book indicates the name is a combination of Mr. DeLizza’s mother’s name and his brother Tony’s mother-in-law’s name. “Thus Julia and Anna became Juliana.”

  2. carol says:

    Thank you for sharing this article, very informative. Guess I need to buy a couple more books. I have a couple piece of D& E jewelry and will never give them up. This article is very well written and a pleasure to read.

  3. Sally Jones says:

    Excellent article Roxy and very informative. What fabulous things they are! I don’t think I’ve ever possessed any genuine Juliana and perhaps they are less easy to find this side of the pond but I’m certainly going to be keeping an eye out in future – especially in those boxes of old junk jewellery!!!

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