of a Fashion Jewelry Manufacturer
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
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.