I must admit, I have a serious passion (addiction) for vintage costume jewelry. Whenever there is an antique show anywhere in the area, I drop everything and go! I especially enjoy taking road trips to find antique shops off the beaten path in quaint little storybook towns. I just never know what kinds of treasures I am going to find.
When it comes to vintage jewelry, I have always been drawn to pieces made between the years of the 1920s to 1960s. One maker of whom I am particularly fond from that time period is Judy Lee. I am starting to be able to identify it almost immediately because, like many designers, it has a certain look about it that makes it their signature.
Judy Lee jewelry is often found with high quality clear or colored navette rhinestones which are oval shaped with two pointed ends, also called a marquise cut. I have purchased some incredibly striking clip earrings and brooches over the years made by Judy Lee.
Here are a couple of Judy Lee pieces with the signature navette stones that were once clip earrings. I repurposed them into adjustable rings:
I also love the fun pinwheel look of this Judy Lee brooch with matching earrings from the 1960s made of milk glass and black rhinestones…a stunning combination!
I repurposed the brooch into a trendy black cowhide leather cuff with snaps:
In 1949, Blanche and Aldo Viano founded The Blanch-Ette Company in Chicago. They owned the Judy Lee trademark which was named after their daughter. The Judy Lee mark has been in use since 1958 and can be seen on the back of the jewelry as Judy-Lee or Judy-Lee Jewels:
During World War II, women were the most prominent workforces in America. After the war was over, they were all replaced by the men. However, many of these women still wanted to have an income, but work from home. This created a whole new industry.
Tupperware and Mary Kay Cosmetics gave women the opportunity to work part-time and sell their products through home parties. Other companies, such as Sara Coventry and Avon, also used this marketing method for their jewelry. The Blanche-Ette Company sold their Judy Lee jewelry the same way beginning in the late 1950s through the ’70s and was quite successful.
Although Judy Lee jewelry is no longer manufactured or sold at home parties anymore, it can still be found now and then at a big antique show or a shabby little shop hidden in the country selling spectacular treasures like a Judy Lee brooch.
If you are like me and have a little curiosity, you might stop on your next road trip and be one of the lucky ones to discover it!
Kimberly Moore is a vintage costume jewelry expert, blogger, speaker, and author of Beauty in a Life Repurposed. To learn more, visit her website at kingdomsparkle.com.
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