It was 2009 when I began the fun and exciting journey of collecting vintage costume jewelry to use for repurposing into rings, bracelets, and necklaces. During many of my searches for the most beautiful, sparkly pieces, I found myself being drawn to a particular designer – actually two designers under one name…Juliana. A piece of Juliana jewelry is so much more than simply costume jewelry. It is truly a work of art.
DeLizza and Elster
William DeLizza and Harold Elster started out as the DeLizza & Elster Company (D & E) in 1947. William’s sons, Frank and Anthony, joined the company in 1948. It became a major costume jewelry manufacturer producing bracelets, brooches, earrings, belts, buckles, and even buttons that were hand-set and prong-set with vibrant colored rhinestones, Aurora Borealis (AB), clear crystals, and simulated stones.
DeLizza and Elster’s vision led to the production of some of the most fabulous and desirable costume jewelry on the market.
D & E followed the trends, changing the sizes and colors of their pieces as fashion dictated. For example, when Aurora Borealis, a stone coated with thin layers of metal to enhance the brilliance and reflect color, was invented in 1953, they began using AB drops with beads on top which became quite fashionable. Interestingly, some of the most collectible Juliana jewelry today incorporates AB crystals or rhinestones.
Here is a D & E necklace and earring set from my collection:
1953 was also the year that D & E had difficulties matching German stones with the first stones they had used from Austria. So they ended up using unique color combinations such as purple and teal or green and pink which actually turned into the style of D & E jewelry that became the most popular!
D & E manufactured and sold to many costume jewelry houses and department stores with over 700 customers in the U.S. as well as overseas. Some of their well-known clients included Weiss, Alice Caviness, Sara Coventry, Hobe, Hattie Carnegie, Kenneth Jay Lane, and Kramer.
Their jewelry was produced with an “open line” concept. This meant that anyone could purchase from the line of jewelry that was manufactured for any season. The jewelry could be bought as a set with a variety of matching pieces or each piece could be purchased individually.
Harold Elster passed away in 1963, leaving William DeLizza as the main designer of D & E’s open line. D & E jewelry was always produced without a signature or mark. It was not until 1967 when the company decided to give it a name and identify it with a black and gold paper hang tag.
With the introduction of the paper hang tag, they changed the name to Juliana and even had a showroom on Fifth Avenue in New York City which was separate from D & E. However, the tag was used by the company for only two years, so approximately 2000 pieces of Juliana costume jewelry were ever manufactured under that name. Frank DeLizza, William’s son, was the original creator of the Juliana line of jewelry.
Here is a beautiful Juliana brooch with Aurora Borealis, frosted, and vibrant orange rhinestones that I repurposed into a leather snap cuff:
I have also found several stunning pairs of Juliana rhinestone clip earrings that I’ve repurposed into adjustable rings. I am especially fond of this one with the watermelon (heliotrope) center stone:
With Juliana jewelry being unmarked unless it had a hang tag still attached, there has been a lot of research done by dealers, collectors, and online groups to uncover information to identify it. Frank DeLizza has also been helping over the years with verification.
Signature Elements of Juliana Jewelry
Unlike much of the costume jewelry from this period, Juliana pieces are mostly stones with very little of the metal showing. Rare and unique art glass stones or stones with special effects were often used. Crystals and rhinestones were layered or stacked. The hardware on earrings is mostly clip backs. Screw backs are rare.
Necklaces have J-hook clasps which allow the wearer to adjust the length. Leaves or flowers were frequently a part of the design:
The bracelets usually have fold-over clasps and safety chains. They also used a classic five-link construction:
Open back rhinestones were common which let the light come through:
Although the DeLizza & Elster Company factory was sold in 1990, Frank is currently producing copies of a few of his old designs through a contractor in Brooklyn, NY. He prefers the jewelry to be known as DeLizza & Elster, but Juliana will probably always be the name most people recognize.
Whenever I want to wear a beautiful, sparkly piece of art, it is an easy decision for me. I go straight to my collection of Juliana jewelry and no matter what I select, I’ve made a perfect choice.
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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