HOW COLLECTORS DISCOVERED THE ROOTS OF JULIANA JEWELRY
HOW COLLECTORS DISCOVERED THE ROOTS OF JULIANA JEWELRY
by Pamela Siegel via the Worthpoint website
The story of Juliana jewelry, also known by the name DeLizza & Elster, isn’t just about discovery. It’s about collectors coming together to share information and how those exchanges still have a far-reaching impact on our hobby. It’s hard to believe that more than two decades have passed since this all occurred.
When the person most instrumental in the deep dive for Juliana’s roots, Cheryl Killmer, passed away in August 2023, many in the jewelry-collecting community mourned her loss. But, as always, saying goodbye often triggers some fond recollections. One memory was the excitement several collectors felt as the pieces of the Juliana puzzle came together, and I count myself among that fortunate group. Others picked up where Killmer left off, and identifying this beautiful jewelry is now easier than ever, thanks to all those early efforts.
HOW THE QUEST FOR JULIANA INFORMATION BEGAN
In the early 2000s, many collectors exchanged information and resources through newsgroups hosted by various platforms. Posts were made on a group board, and you could log on to read them or receive daily emails detailing all the information being shared there. Collectors discussed their varied interests, shared photos of new acquisitions, posed questions, and some even met up at conventions after getting to know each other online. I was one of the people who did all of that, along with Killmer.
As we were having those online interactions, Killmer mentioned that she’d found jewelry marked with a foil hang tag marked Juliana and that the matching pieces she’d put together seemed to have some identifying characteristics. Others chimed in that they’d noticed the same thing. One of the most obvious was the link and band construction of unsigned bracelets tagged Juliana. That’s all it took for several of us to start pulling out what we often call “unsigned beauties” and examining them for more identifying characteristics.
One of the things collectors often get caught up in is what we call SCS, which stands for “Set Completion Syndrome.” As our discussions continued, we discovered several of us had put together sets of this unmarked jewelry by look alone. We noticed things the various designs had in common, like the way elements were soldered and the findings that were used. We also observed stones that were frequently incorporated in these pieces, as well as other more minute details. One of the things I brought up to the group was the use of heavy rivets to attach embellishments like dangling beads and decorative florets of stones. They were different than rivets with swedged construction found in marked pieces by Beaujewels and Judy Lee. They were also used much more sparingly.
The name Juliana stuck since that’s the only one we had to associate with this jewelry as our discussions continued. Things took a turn, however, when Killmer made another connection online.
GETTING TO KNOW FRANK DELIZZA
As Killmer continued her quest for more information, she found a website that held some promise. When she reached out to the owner to ask about the name Juliana, which seemed to be related to her research, she found that they were one and the same. The site’s owner, Frank DeLizza, was indeed a principal of DeLizza & Elster! The company, as Killmer discovered, made Juliana jewelry as a house brand, but they jobbed for others ranging from Kenneth Jay Lane to Yves St. Laurent.
This discovery was indeed thrilling as word traveled through our community. Shortly thereafter, DeLizza was invited to a convention for jewelry collectors that Killmer attended, and I was lucky enough to be there, too. He was humbled to learn that so many people admired and collected the adornment his company produced. He freely shared details about the jewelry industry, his company, and, of course, the jewelry the business marketed.
We learned that unmarked jewelry sold with Juliana hang tags and earring cards was only made from 1963 to 1964 as the company tried to make a name for itself, wholesaling directly to stores like Macy’s and smaller boutiques. The venture was largely unsuccessful and thus short-lived, but many designs with similar construction were sold to other businesses. These include Tara Fifth Avenue and Celebrity home party jewelry, among others. That’s why we find so many pieces we dub “Juliana” or “DeLizza & Elster” today, even though they are unmarked.
COLLECTORS CREATING RESOURCES FOR COLLECTORS
To continue what Killmer started, Katerina Musetti—one of my personal friends who is also a talented jewelry artisan in her own right—wrote The Art of Juliana Jewelry, filled with beautiful examples from her collection in 2008. Her work is still available through Schiffer Books. Then came an even more comprehensive book in 2009: Juliana Jewelry Reference, DeLizza & Elster: Identification & Price Guide by Ann Pitman, another avid collector I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at jewelry gatherings.
Hardcover versions of Pitman’s book can sell for hundreds today, so keep an eye out for them at estate sales and thrift stores. Or, better yet, you can access it in the WorthPoint Library online. Pitman also announced on Facebook that she is working on getting her book republished. Collectors who don’t want to wait can email her at [email protected] to order a flash drive eBook. As a side note, the only thing really lacking with Pitman’s book is a detailed index, so I made one several years ago that collectors can download as a .PDF on the Costume Jewelry Collectors Int’l website.
An online search can also yield many other resources for identifying this unmarked jewelry, including several articles I’ve written myself. Other collectors have established a Facebook group dedicated to Juliana and even set up an “Is it Juliana Jewelry” online database to assist collectors. When using all these resources, remember that the passion, dedication, and diligence of collectors led to Juliana being the recognizable and popular vintage jewelry that it is today.
Pamela Siegel is a freelance writer and author who has been educating collectors for more than two decades. In addition to three books on topics relating to antiques and collectibles, she frequently shares her expertise through online writing and articles for print-based publications. Pamela is also the co-founder of Costume Jewelry Collectors Int’l (CJCI) and the proprietor of Chic Antiques by Pamela.
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Vintage Designer Jewelry featuring The Cheryl Killmer Collection
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