In the late 1920s, Eugene Joseff (1905–48) decided to leave the Midwest and his career in advertising in search of better economic opportunities. He moved to Los Angeles where the motion-picture industry thrived.
The charismatic Joseff soon befriended the famous costume designer Walter Plunkett (1902–82) who first inspired Joseff to create jewelry for Hollywood films. Joseff, who at a young age apprenticed at a foundry, began experimenting with making jewelry in the garage of his Sunset Boulevard home.
He developed a matte metal finish for his jewelry, which minimized the glare from the strong studio lights. He also amassed a reference library to aid him in the creation of pieces for historic films. He used this reference library to make himself into an invaluable resource to the costume designers of Old Hollywood, allowing them to pore over his tomes for their film projects.
Before long, the talented Joseff became the premier costume jeweler in Hollywood, designing, manufacturing, and renting jewelry to movie studios under the brand name Joseff of Hollywood. Joseff created exquisite pieces for famous actresses such as Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express, Greta Garbo in Camille, and Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind.
Hollywood stars now desired Joseff of Hollywood creations to wear off-screen. Joseff realized the lucrative potential of a retail line, which he began to sell in high-end department stores. He moved to a new location in Burbank, close to the studios but with enough space to expand his operations.
With his business quickly growing, Joseff needed someone to manage the day-to-day affairs. Joan Castle (1912–2010) was hired, and before long the two fell in love, and were married in 1942. Together they were an unstoppable, glamorous pair! By continuing to create designs for “every woman” and converting studio designs for retail sale, the demand for Joseff pieces continued to grow.
Just six years after their union, and less than a year after the birth of their only son Jeffrey, Joseff died suddenly in a plane crash September 18, 1948. In the wake of this tragedy, Joan ignored the advice of her friends to sell the business and focus on their infant son. Instead, she took over control completely, becoming President and running the entire aerospace department as well as jewelry!
Joan continued to be a large presence in the Hollywood scene, famous for her Christmas parties held at the hottest Hollywood haunts, where guests could bump elbows with the stars and see the dazzling Joseff Christmas tree, traditionally decorated each year with jewels from the Studio.
At under 5 feet tall, Joan Castle was a truly unexpected dynamo in the aerospace business, walking into meetings with her perfectly coordinated outfits and matching jewelry. It was at this point that she began going by “J.C” which helped her stay under the radar a bit in business correspondence, although she admitted to enjoying the reactions when people met her in person for the first time!
Joan passed away in 2010 at the age of 97.
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