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Largest collection of jewelry worn by legendary stars of Hollywood's Golden Era goes to auction
Eugene Joseff was a gregarious businessman who settled in Hollywood after moving from Chicago. Photo: Julien's Auctions.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA.- Julien’s Auctions has announced that Property from JOSEFF OF HOLLYWOOD, master jeweler to the stars during the Golden Age of Hollywood, will head to the auction block this November. Screen icons, costume designers and fashionistas sought out Joseff’s dazzling and unique costume jewelry to be worn in films and at special events. Joseff’s works dazzled the red carpet, lit up the big screen and became signature pieces worn by a “Who’s Who” of Golden Hollywood. The concept of renting and loaning jewelry to Hollywood stars was original to Eugene Joseff.

Legendary stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Vivien Leigh, Judy Garland, Olivia de Havilland and Greta Garbo are among the impressive list of Hollywood’s biggest stars who wore Joseff’s designs. From a belt precisely fitted for Taylor in “Cleopatra” (1963) to an elaborate jeweled bib necklace worn by Ona Munsen in “Shanghai Gesture” (1941), the custom made costume jewelry revolutionized the artistic way jewelry and accessories were presented in movies.

During the magical movie times of the 1930s and 1940s, Joseff supplied close to 90% of all jewelry worn on screen. The auction will also include iconic pieces such as the necklace worn by Vivien Leigh and cigar case used by Clark Gable in “Gone with the Wind” (1939).

Eugene Joseff was a gregarious businessman who settled in Hollywood after moving from Chicago. After falling in with costume designers such as Walter Plunkett, Adrian and Edith Head, he believed he could turn his metalworking talents into gold by designing historically accurate jewelry to be worn in films. Joseff studied museum pieces and conducted detailed research to improve his craft in the meticulous pursuit of perfection. His limited budget was the initial reason he rented to studios, a business model he is credited with starting. He expanded his business during World War II by developing and manufacturing airplane parts during World War II under the name Joseff Precision Investment Castings.

Joseff developed a special antiqued plating technique specifically designed to soften the glare of the harsh studio lighting and give every piece a veneer of authenticity. After the casting and assembly of pieces, Joseff would apply his “secret sauce,” a recipe and technique that remains a Joseff family secret. Joseff of Hollywood was established in the late 1920’s and after Eugene Joseff’s untimely death in 1948, his wife J.C. took over the business and managed the company until her passing at the age of 97 in 2010, eventually earning an Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women of Motion Picture Industry.

Both Eugene and J.C. were masters at designing jewelry as well as socializing in Hollywood. They used their vivacious personalities to work the Hollywood network of designers and studios, ensuring that for many years, Joseff’s pieces were in high demand. The Collection has remained in the possession of the Joseff family in its entirety for all these years. It has never been offered at auction and has rarely been seen. Julien’s Auctions will have the honor of hosting the auction in November in Los Angeles.

The collection offers rare and significant Hollywood provenance. The vivid colors, unique designs and handcrafted artisanal style are obvious throughout.

Highlights include the necklace worn by Vivien Leigh and cigar case used by Clark Gable in “Gone With the Wind” (1939); earrings worn by Marilyn Monroe in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953); necklaces worn by Bette Davis in “The Virgin Queen” (1955); brooch worn by Marlene Dietrich in “Shanghai Express” (1932); Loretta Young’s crown and comb from “Suez” (1938); earrings worn by Marilyn Monroe in “Some Like it Hot” (1959); necklace, earrings and ornaments worn by Greta Garbo in “Camille” (1936); Order chains worn by Katherine Hepburn in “Mary of Scotland” (1936); necklace worn by Judy Garland in the “Ziegfeld Follies” (1946); a brooch worn by Lana Turner and medallion worn by Vincent Price in “The Three Musketeers” (1948) and a necklace worn by Olivia de Havilland in “My Cousin Rachel” (1952).

Additional highlights include a necklace worn by Rosalind Russell in “A Woman of Distinction” (1950); the necklace worn by Tallulah Bankhead in “A Royal Scandal” (1945); a belt and earrings worn by Rita Hayworth in “Salome” (1953); bell earrings worn by Ona Munson in “Gone with the Wind” (1939); and hundreds of more items.

Also upcoming is the anticipated release of the new book Joseff of Hollywood: Putting the Tinsel in Tinsel Town, by Michele Joseff, which will be available for presale throughout related auction events, and available for purchase thereafter.

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