Alice Caviness was a true “Southern belle,” and her jewelry reflected her charm, femininity and exquisite taste. While some of her pieces reflected the styles of the Victorian Era, mostly they had the exuberance and promise of prosperity of post war America.
Looking for Vintage Alice Caviness Jewelry? Learn about history, jewelry marks, materials used, and collectible pieces in this guide.
Brief History of Alice Caviness Jewelry
Alice Caviness was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1902. She moved to New York City to work in the garment industry, originally as a fashion and glove model, but she never lost her Southern charm or her charming Southern drawl. She later began designing her own fashions and then moved on to designing costume jewelry to enhance her clothing designs. After World War II, she concentrated on designing, manufacturing and importing jewelry. Her first company was on Long Island, New York. Her husband, Jules Junquerra closed his lamp and shade business and joined his wife in the jewelry business.
While Alice produced her own designs in her own factory, she also imported pieces and commissioned others. In the mid-1950s, she hired two young, talented designers, Lois Steever and Camille (Millie) Petronzio. Alice’s jewelry lines were distinctive and trend setting. She rarely, if ever, mass produced any of her designs, so did not ever come close to making anywhere near the volume that jewelers such as Coro and Trifari did. As a result, Alice’s jewelry is much more difficult to find and very collectible.
Alice’s costume jewelry was typically constructed of complex, layered materials and intricate handiwork. Many pieces used striking color combinations and exotic materials. Her cross motifs may be seen as her signature pieces, but she created brooches of owls, poodles, elephants and peacocks. Her imported pieces from postwar Germany were made of sterling silver, gold-on-silver, cloisonne and enamels.
Alice’s jewelry was sold in high-end boutiques and department stores and the finer jewelry shops. Her own showroom was originally at the corner of 5th Avenue and 34th Street in New York City. Later, it moved to 435 5th Avenue. There were also showrooms in Dallas, Raleigh, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Caviness retired to Florida in 1980 and died in 1983. Alice Caviness Jewelry continued until 2000.
Alice Caviness Jewelry Designers
- Lois Steever was hired by Alice in 1957 as a sales representative. She became a co-designer with Alice and a partner in the business. When Alice retired in the 1980, Lois bought the business and continued the Alice Caviness line until 2000.
- Camille (Millie) Petronzio became a designer for Alice in the mid-1950s and stayed there until 1980 as head designer. She left to become head designer at Miriam Haskell. While working with Alice, Millie created the line “Cleopatra” that included a bib necklace of aqua oval cabochons joined by antiqued gold-tone filigree diamond shapes. She also won two Swarovski Great Designs in Costume Jewelry Awards.
There is no rhyme or reason to the different hallmarks, so they cannot be used to date the pieces.
In some cases, only one piece in a parure or set was hallmarked. Since sets were separated over time, it’s possible to find authentic Alice Caviness pieces that are not signed.
- Most common hallmark is an oval cartouche with “ALICE CAVINESS” in block letters
- “ALICE over CAVINESS” in block letters on an oval plaque soldered to the back of the piece
- “ALICE over CAVINESS” in block letters on an oval plaque with “STERLING over GERMANY” on a rectangle plaque
- “ALICE CAVINESS” in block letters over “STERLING” on an oval plaque
- “ALICE CAVINESS STERLING SILVER”
- “A.C.” with “Gold Filled” or “Sterling”
- Sterling silver
- Sterling vermeil
- 12K gold
- Gold tone metal
- Silver tone metal
- Cultured pearls
- Crater beads
- Hand-carved ivory
Vintage Alice Caviness Jewelry Collectibles
1960s. Part of the Mod revolution in fashion. Tassel pendant on multi-strand beads and chain in gold tone with filigree. Measures 18 ½ inches long with extender clasp that adds 3 inches.
1960s. One of Alice’s trademark crosses that can be worn as a brooch or a pendant. Measures 3 ¼ inches long by 2 ½ inches wide.
1950s. Bangle with gold-plated metal, rhinestones, faux gems. The bangle springs open at the front and is 6.75 inches round and 1.125 inches wide.
From the 1960s. Earrings are 1" Diameter with Clip Backs. Brooch is Approximately 2" Long and 1 1/2" Wide.
1960s. Spectacular faux pearl and crystal drop bib necklace—21 dangling strands on a faux champagne pearl necklace. The center dangle has a faceted aurora rectangular crystal, an oblong faux pearl, a round crystal with rhinestone end cap and a large faux pearl and crystal aurora rhinestone bauble at the end. The rest of the strands alternate between pearl/rhinestone navette/pearl/crystal drop strands and crystal round bead/crystal rectangle bead/round bead/big faux pearl strands. Measures 17 inches with 3-inch extender.
Tips for Buying Vintage Alice Caviness Jewelry
Know the seller—if not personally then by recommendations and customer reviews. Find out how long they have been in business.
Speak directly with the seller. Sometimes you can get a “feel” for a person even over the phone. Determine if answers to your questions are straightforward. A good question is how he/she came into possession of the piece. People who love vintage jewelry love sharing the story of their treasure hunts. The seller should be able to give you general information on the piece and, even better, some of its history.
Look for the patina. A genuine vintage piece will have a sheen (patina) from being worn. Other signs of wear are common, a little tarnish here, a dent there. It shouldn’t look brand new!
If the price is too good to be true, the piece is most often not authentic vintage.
Look for estate sales in your area. Then you are side-stepping the unknown dealer and buying online. Besides, it’s a fun day as well as informative.
The more research you do, the more you will shop smartly. Learn as much as you can, and a shady seller will not be able to scam you.
Vintage Alice Caviness Jewelry is not as plentiful as many other jewelry designers, but when you find a piece, it’s definitely a thrill. Etsy has a very nice selection on their Alice Caviness pages, as does eBay.