Founded in 1949 by Charles Stuart, who named his costume-jewelry company after his granddaughter, Sarah Coventry did not follow the Coro, Trifari, or Miriam Haskell practice of producing the work of a strong in-house designer. Instead, Stuart purchased designs from freelancers, then hired firms such as DeLizza and Elster, whose house brand was Juliana, to create its chokers, necklaces, brooches, earrings, and bracelets.
Also unlike its competitors, Sarah Coventry did not focus on getting prime counter space in department stores, or selling its wares to Hollywood movie stars in order to move its inventory. Stuart’s approach was more grassroots, using house parties (a la Tupperware and Avon) to get people talking about his affordable jewelry. He also gave his costume jewelry away to contestants on game shows and at beauty pageants. The word of mouth that resulted from this marketing strategy made Sarah Coventry one of the most popular jewelry brands of the mid-20th century. Today, its pieces from the 1960s and ’70s are especially prized by collectors.
Even though Coventry lacked its own designer, many of the company’s signature pieces share stylistic characteristics. For example, Sarah Coventry costume jewelry tends to feature cabochons and marquise-cut rhinestones rather than densely packed grids or endless rows of smaller sparklers. Base metals were usually gold-tone or silver-tone, sometimes serving as openwork or filigree backgrounds for a handful of stones placed symmetrically upon them. And, above all, Coventry jewelry was fun, often ringed with eye-catching rhinestone-bead or enameled-metal fringe. Sometimes Coventry pieces even incorporated art masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa into their designs.