Alice Caviness, a fashion model who became a clothing designer, ventured into the costume jewelry business in 1945, just after the end of World War II.
She was an impeccable dresser and had a definite flair for imaginative clothing and jewelry. She founded Caviness Jewelry with her husband, Jules Junquerra (who had first been in the lampshade business) and they made some pieces, commissioned others and also imported some of the jewelry from Europe. The pieces made in Europe were made of superior sterling and gold on sterling, enamels and filigrees. These became an important part of the line, which also included costume jewelry made of rhinestone and beads.
Alice Caviness was extremely involved in the design, production and selection of the jewelry pieces that comprised Caviness Jewelry.
Caviness costume jewelry is unusual and also very distinctive, as was Alice Caviness. She was a charming individual and very particular dresser, described as having a lilting southern drawl, and American and Europeans alike were quite taken with her.
Caviness vintage costume jewelry was typically constructed of complex, layered materials. These materials included sterling vermeil, enamels, cultured pearls and rhinestones and all sizes and colors, stones, beads and hand carved ivory. Many pieces had very striking color combinations. Caviness pieces with a cross motif were popular, and a few were made of exotic materials, such as jade. The company also produced a number of cameo pieces. In the 1970s, 12 Karat gold-filled bangle bracelets were quite popular. Most of the pieces throughout the years required intricate handwork, setting stones or beads, for example.
Pieces made in West Germany are signed as such and many of them are filigrees in sterling silver. Other Caviness pieces were signed ALICE CAVINESS, CAVINESS and ALICE CAVINESS STERLING SILVER. Still others are signed with ALICE CAVINESS or CAVINESS (block letters) on an oval attachment, soldered onto the back of a piece.
Alice Caviness made many fewer pieces than other prominent costume jewelers at the time, and only sold the jewelry in exclusive, high-end boutiques and department stores. The primary showroom was in New York, but the Caviness Jewelry also had showrooms in Dallas, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and Raleigh, NC.
Alice Caviness vintage costume jewelry is hard to find and in high demand among collectors.
Caviness Jewelry employed two prominent designers, Lois Steever and Camille (Millie) Petronzio. Camille won two Swarovski awards while at Caviness, and went on to work for Miriam Haskell Jewelry. When Alice retired in 1970, Lois Steever purchased the business and continued with the line until 2000. Alice passed away in 1983.
Caviness introduced their line each spring and fall, and many buyers went to their New York showroom then. Still, some designs were in demand for many years, and Caviness Jewelry did continue to carry these designs.
Preston Reuther is a "Master Wire Sculptor" and Cameo Appraiser and has been collecting and selling Vintage Jewelry for over 30 years. He is a jewelry instructor and has produced over 100 jewelry making videos and owns two vintage jewelry stores WWW.CAMEOJEWELRY.COM and WWW.ANTIQUECAMEOS.COM You may reach him at either store.