In vintage fine jewelry, precious metals such as platinum, gold, and silver were routinely used as armatures and frames for gemstones like diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. But in vintage costume jewelry, the base material that held the glittering rhinestones and sparkling pieces of paste in place was called white or pot metal, an inexpensive, kitchen-sink alloy of mostly tin and lead.

World War II changed all that, forcing costume-jewelry designers such as Trifari, Coro, and Haskell to anchor their baubles to silver, which was less valuable to the war effort than tin or lead. Unfortunately, it was also more expensive to work with. Prices for Trifari products tripled, in part because the company’s dies, and even its tools, had been melted down for the war. Starting in some cases entirely from scratch, some of its jewelry had to be made using traditional lost-wax-casting techniques, which added to the precious metal’s already high cost.

Little wonder, then, that after the war, manufacturers were anxious to return to base metals that were less costly. Unfortunately, costume-jewelry customers had gotten used to silver. To hype the return to a cheaper base metal, Trifari began advertising a "revolutionary" new metal called Trifanium, which was a made-up name for their new non-silver metal with a no-polish rhodium finish.

Vermeil is another page in the World War II costume-jewelry silver story. Though plated with gold, the core of vermeil was actually sterling silver. Pieces made during the 1940s, particularly those by Coro, are especially collectible.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Researching Costume Jewelry

Researching Costume Jewelry

Jewelry lovers, venture through this amazing database of vintage jewelry articles, catalogs, and brochures, as well… [read review or visit site]

Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry

Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry

It looks like we're not in Kansas anymore with Elizabeth Rowlands' site on vintage costume jewelry from the 1940s a… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Vintage Toshikane Sterling Silver Painted Porcelain Bird BraceletVintage Victorian Revival Guglielmo Cini Sterling Silver NecklaceRare Vintage Margot De Taxco Sterling Silver Cherub Angel Charm BraceletVintage Coro Craft Sterling Silver Blue & Clear Rhinestone Swan Bird Pin BroochRare Vintage Guglielmo Cini Sterling Silver Scarab Beetle BroochRare Antique Art Deco David Andersen Sterling Silver Guilloche Enamel LocketVintage Silver Genuine Black Coral Bangle BraceletVintage Early Mexican Alpaca Silver Plastic Turquoise Wide NecklaceAntique Chinese Sterling Silver Amethyst Jade Necklace Shou Prayer Carved BeadsVintage Guglielmo Cini Hand Wrought Sterling Silver Flower Basket BroochVintage Guglielmo Cini Gumps Hand Wrought Sterling Silver Hibiscus Flower BroochVintage Chinese Or Japanese Sterling Silver Repousse Buddha BraceletRare Vintage Joseph Mazer Sterling Silver Faux Moonstone Rhinestone BroochFine Vintage Guglielmo Cini Sterling Silver BraceletVintage Margot De Taxco Sterling Silver Ballerina Dancer BroochLrg Antique Early 20thc Victorian Sterling Silver Black Onyx Stone Butterfly PinVintage 1950s Art Modern Sterling Silver Figural Dancers, NrVtg Art Deco Austrian 916 Silver Filgree Vermeil Paste Glass Bracelet Vintage Ring Art Deco 1930s Silver & Marcasite Retro Bridal JewelleryVery Rare, Art Deco Geometric 835 Silver Ruby & Diamante Paste Bracelet ~nr~Stunning Vintage Estate Signed Dtr 925 Jay King Serpentine Agate Necklace! G2920Vintage Coro Craft Sterling Silver And Enamel Rock Fish Brooch/pin~sterling Coro Craft~large Pegasus Jelly Belly Brooch! RareAntique Art Deco Silver Filigree & Enamel Bracelet W Clear Crystal RhinestoneVintage Modernist Napier Sterling Silver Leaf BraceletCoro Sterling 1940s- Adolph Katz - Jelly Belly Leaping Antelope Impala Brooch Nr6 X Vintage Art Deco Silver & Bakelite Brooches No ReserveAntique Or Vtg Salmon Coral Sterling Silver Gold Tone Victorian Ornate Bracelet Arts And Crafts Charles And Gladys Mumford Silver Tigers Eye BroochA Collection Of 6 Vintage Cameo Shell Brooches, 5 Silver And 1 Gold PlateVintage Guglielmo Cini Hand Wrought Sterling Silver Fruit BroochVintage Miriam Haskell Emerald Green Glass Silver Filigree Hinge Bangle BraceletSigned Art Deco Geometric 935 Sterling Silver Sapphire & Diamante Paste BroochRare Vintage Signed Coro Duette Sterling Silver Bird Brooch Pin Shoe Clips BlueSilver? Butterfly Wing? Antique Green Iridescent Blue Filigree Bug Insect BroochRare Antique Georgian Sterling Silver Multi Color Black Dot Paste Drop EarringsVintage Alexander Ritchie Iona Sterling Silver Penannular Celtic Brooch Vintage Tortolani Signed Western Prickly Pear Cactus Plant Silver Pin Brooch Georg Jensen Gilt Sterling Silver Anchor Chain Necklace Antique Victorian Sterling Silver Amethyst Seed Pearl Horseshoe Brooch PinWhiting And Davis Mesh Silver Tone 3 Coil Wrap Snake Asp Egyptian Bracelet Vintage Old Art Deco Silver Filigree Blue Glass Crystal Pendant Drop NecklaceVintage Vendome Silver Light Blue Glass Crystal Floral Bead Rhinestone necklaceVintage Jewellery Lovely Modernist All Silver Ring Size 'p'Pristine Trifari 1945 Sterling Crown Brooch-faux Pearls/rhinestonesVintage Weiss Silver Blue Purple Ab Rhinestone Flower Fan Pin Brooch Earring SetArt Deco Paste & Scottish Jewellery Silver Brooches Necklace EarringsVtg Art Deco Tank Tread Book Chain Bookchain Sterling Silver 3/4” Wide Bracelet Vintage Jewellery Delightful Silver & Amethyst Rennie Mackintosh Design BroochVintage Chinese Gilt Sterling Silver Filigree Enamel Bird BroochRare Vintage Joseph Mazer Sterling Silver Faux Moonstone Rhinestone Earrings Vintage 800 Silver Shell Cameo Lady & Flowers Cameo Bracelet Earrings SetSigned Trifari Sterling Silver Alfred Philippe Queens Crown Cabachon Brooch Pin Vintage Victorian Rose Cut Garnet Circle Star Pendant & 800 Silver Cluster RingVintage Jewellery 'n.e From' Sterling Silver & Agate Denmark Ring Size 'k'Vintage Antique Silver Filigree Cameo Pendant Drop NecklaceVintage Hand Carved Shell Cameo Brooch Pin Silver Tone Victorian Revival W433Vintage Whiting & Davis Silver Mesh Bib Necklace Drape Mesh-mates CollarAntique Multi Color Gold On Sterling Silver Filigree Simulated Amethyst RingVintage Sterling Jsvr Horse Theme Charm Silver Rogers Spoon 2.3" Chain Bracelet