A photo of the book cover "Memoirs of a Fashion Jewelry Manufacturer"

 

Memoirs of a Fashion Jewelry Manufacturer
by: Frank Delizza
review by  Gail Dennehy

Once upon a time, in a place not very far away, business was done on a handshake. It was a time when a trusted employee didn't retire, he expired at his desk. Traveling salesmen were invited to stay in their customers' homes. People were proud of their products then, too, and the highest complement you could give a man was that he was a "real gentleman."

You might have to work at your kitchen table or in your brother's garage when first starting out, but eventually, you'd hire your children and move to a factory and your biggest disappointment might be a sales rep who showed a rival line along side the one you produced.
It's not the same now, but if you want a glimpse into that time and place, read "Memoirs of a Fashion Jewelry Manufacturer" by Frank R. DeLizza.

The author, Frank, was the son of the William DeLizza, a first generation American, who grew up on Bleeker Street in New York. William and Harold Elster were the original founders of DeLizza and Elster, Inc. in New York City. Frank grew up watching his dad work and after World War II, Frank, in sales, and his brother, Tony, in production, worked for his father until the company folded in 1990, a victim of overseas competition and union squabbles.

In the heyday of costume jewelry, their product was sold by all the finest jewelry houses. Representatives of many of the top wholesalers and distributors stopped by their showrooms on Fifth Avenue annually. Frank lists many of their customers, Kenneth Lane, Just Jewelry of Chicago, Stephen Adrian, and Tempo Jewelry are just a few. The factory made costumes for Circus Circus and pieces for Frederick's of Hollywood and belts for Park Avenue. At one point, Cdeoro attempted to buy their complete output. Many of the pieces are illustrated throughout the book by design drawings and colored magazine photographs that Mr. DeLizza kept for his private collection.

"Memoirs" also offers priceless advice for the small business owner on staying ahead of the marketplace. The years during which Frank and Tony ran the factory were turbulent ones for the costume jewelry industry. DeLizza and Elster constantly added new and diverse products to their line. Usually, they hired designers, not on their paper qualifications, but on their creativity and insight. Frank's daughter, Judy, used her inherited design and color flare to create products that helped keep them ahead of the game.

The costume jewelry business almost died during the sixties, DeLizza and Elster went on. They added a line of belts that kept their name active and worked with shoe manufacturers to supply buckles. In 1990, the business finally closed and Frank retired.

A few years later, Cheryl Kilmer stumbled on a Juliana tag. Juliana was one of DeLizza and Elster's nom de plumes. She had organized a group called the Real Juliana Jewelry Group. It consisting of costume jewelry collectors who searched out products under all the selling names used by the factory; Juliana, Judy, Judy, Judy, Fifth Avenue Accessories, Mystic Jewelry, Greenwood Designs, and Fifth Avenue Boutique, etc.
Frank hadn't known that he was a part of history. He hadn't even known that the work from his factory was considered a prize collectible. On the advice of Ms. Kilmer, he wrote this book. Frank DeLizza wasn't a professional writer and this book doesn't read like a professional writer's book would read. It is a very personal look into a time and place that is gone now. But wouldn't it be lovely to have it back?

Thank you for your story, Mr. DeLizza. You are a true gentleman.


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