Joseff-Costume Jeweller to Old Hollywood

Joseff-Costume Jeweller to the stars

Did you ever wonder about the jewellery of the fabulous oldies of Hollywood? Marilyn’s jewels in “Some Like it Hot” for example? There is a  legendary studio called “Joseff”, which is named after  Eugene Joseff  (1905–48). During his time he would become the legend known as Joseff costume jeweller to the stars. The Joseff studio supplied jewels for many of the classic movies that we know and love. Our story starts in the late 1920s when an ambitious young Eugene Joseff moved from the mid-west to Hollywood. Hollywood was one of the only industries actually thriving during the great depression, so this was a very savvy move.

Hedy Lamarr, 1944 -Public domain

A Charismatic lucky upstart

The charismatic young upstart was lucky enough to meet the legendary costume designer Walter Plunkett (1902–82). Plunket promptly took him under his wing and encouraged a costume jewellery designer to emerge! With experience apprenticing at a foundry when he was younger, Eugene was confident enough to experiment with design in his garage at home in Los Angeles. He as well amassed a library of historically relevant styles that he would ingeniously match for the films he was hired to supply jewellery for. Joseff went on to create a matte finish for the metal settings.  This was a brilliant solution to the distracting problem of filming highly reflective polished jewels shot under the glare of set-lights. He soon rose to the top of his field in supplying Hollywood films with costume jewellery. His pieces have appeared in countless classics and been worn by many a diva including, Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express, Greta Garbo in Camille, and Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind.

Joseff Costume Jewellery in Demand

Joseff’s work became so popular that Hollywood stars requested pieces for offset appearances and personal use.  Joseff created a full line that was sold in some of the upper-end department stores. Joseff brought in an employee named Joan Castle with whom he fell in love with and who later became his wife. When Joseff tragically died in an accident Joan took over the business which was not common at the time for a woman. But  Joan actually expanded the business to include television show productions. Joan as well sustained the foundry with the addition of casting and production for aircraft parts, based on the original casting work that Joseff produced during World War II.

Family Business

Joan’s daughter in law, grandson and granddaughter run the family business to this day, maintaining thousands of pieces. Joseff has been woman-owned and run business since 1941. Some of the pieces have been and will be up for auction. Although they are all made of ‘faux’ diamonds, rubies, pearls, etc., the collector’s items have been fetching a pretty penny. Some pieces have been auctioned off for between 5000 to 30,000 dollars so far. So, you too have a chance to own the earrings worn by Marilyn Monroe in a Hollywood classic!