In the twenties and thirties, one of the most prominent Hollywood jewelry suppliers was a designer named Eugene Joseff, founder and president of Joseff-Hollywood. In fact, over a span of 28 years (from 1921 to 1949), he worked on costumes and wardrobes for many films, and his company, which continued after his death, supplied jewelry for over one thousand movies, including classics like Casablanca and Some Like it Hot as well as a few television sitcoms.
Joseff’s popularity rose in part because of his innovative techniques, which were particularly useful for the big screen. One major asset was his development of a visually effective substitute for gold, called Russian gold plating. Real gold creates an over-reflective surface causing a glare on film, but with Russian gold plating’s semi-matte copper-gold finish, the unwelcome glare was significantly minimized.
But a clever scientific approach was not the only feature that guaranteed him a spot at the top of Hollywood’s costume hierarchy. His creations are also undeniably exquisite, ostentatious in a way only the early 20th century could manage. For Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind, he created a stunning diamond and amethyst necklace along two thin chains — both studded with round diamonds — that joined with large amethyst gems at three equidistant points. Leigh’s costar, Clark Gable, carried a gold and silver cigar case that is known as such an irreplaceable part of film history that it can never leave the studio. More on Joseff’s legacy in posts to come!