History of Castlecraft and Hillcraft Jewelry

Posted by Bella Coeur on

A few years ago, my website was set up differently than it is now.  There was an area – kind of like a landing page – for each category.  I enjoyed having the opportunity to give a little bit of history or general information about the items within that category. When we remade our website a couple years ago, the area available for this was greatly reduced.  I’m going to be putting those pages back together here in my blog and I hope you find them interesting and useful.

I’m going to start with Hillcraft and Castlecraft jewelry because it has an interesting history and it also has a unique feature in its design.  Both companies hand made their jewelry in central Indiana.  As a proud Indiana native, I have a warm spot in my heart for anything made by either company.

The jewelry is high quality costume jewelry.  Czech glass stones, beads, buttons, and Swarovski crystals were used in many of their items.  Neither company signed their jewelry, but it is usually very easy to identify.  Using specially designed gold filled wire, the earring “clips” the company created were quite unique, as they slip on to the ear and are worn slightly at an angle, rather than having a hinged clip or screwback.  Many people consider them to be more comfortable than the usual earring clip back.   Because of the earrings’ distinctive clip design, many necklaces and bracelets may be identified by finding the matching earrings, although the company also used unusual clasps on their necklaces and bracelets, too. 

Hillcraft jewelry was made in Rockville, Indiana from the early 1950s and into the 1990s. 

Owned originally by Allen Chamberlain, Bill May, and Charlie Ellis, the jewelry was made at the Indiana State Tuberculosis Sanatorium by patients there as well as by a few company employees.  Eventually Charlie Ellis left Hillcraft and started his own jewelry company – Castlecraft, which was based in Greencastle, Indiana.  Another unique and interesting fact is that there was little or no competition between the two companies and all partners remained friends and sharing workloads, designs, and sometimes, even employees!

Original Hillcraft earrings on card with price and a bit of company history

It seems that Hillcraft was also highly unusual in that if a customer ever lost an earring, it was only necessary for the owner to send it to the company and they would replace it.  If the earring was no longer in their inventory, they would even re-create a piece in order to match the remaining earring as closely as possible.  Both the new earring and the old were cleaned and returned as a pair to the customer. 

Hillcraft and Castlecraft jewelry were never sold in stores.  The jewelry was sold either through clubs or as fund raisers.  Hillcraft was also sold at the Covered Bridge Festival in Rockville, Indana.

For a more complete history of Hillcraft jewelry, check out Nancy Hopper-Cady’s site at hoppersbazaar.

**A couple years ago, I was contacted by a lady whose mother worked for Charlie Ellis.  She gave me quite a bit of first hand information and permission to share it on my website.  I’ll be writing that up and adding that soon.

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  • I love reading and seeing everything about this jewelry. I reside in Putnam county and knew Mr. Ellis’ daughter back in the 1960’s! I have many pieces of their jewelry and recently came across new old stock of Hillcraft/Castlecraft rings!! I have never seen these before!! has anyone else? I can not find anything about them anywhere. HELP! Thank you!

    Chyril Hoke on
  • My grandma had a necklace made by hillcraft The only piece of jewelry she ever bought. I have it now and wear it for special occasions

    Linda Chaney on
  • My mother was a first cousin to Charles Ellis and I a child I remember visiting the shop where the Castlecraft jewelry was made and getting to take home home oh so many jewels❤️

    Kathleen Wynn on
  • My father Joe Reisinger was at tb sanitarium and started company with Bill May and Alan Chamberlin. I have the book on how it started.i have lots of hillcraft jewelry. I have bracelet named after me.

    Robin Reisinger Watson on
  • My mother worked at Hill craft for over 20 years I have several pairs of earrings and necklaces that she made. Their jewelry was well-made and unique. Thank you for this article.
    Donna Lindley on

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