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    

Antique Art Deco Sterling Silver Guilloche Enamel Pendant WatchVintage David Andersen Gilt Sterling Silver Red Black Guilloche Enamel BraceletCrown Trifari A. Phillipe Sterling Silver Jelly Belly Bee Brooch Pin RhinestonesVintage Signed “mb” Marcel Boucher Sterling/rhinestone/pearl Bird Brooch Pin YqzAntique Victorian Silver Snake Mesh Garnet Paste Bypass Wrap BraceletCrown Trifari Sterling Silver Jelly Belly Bee Brooch Pin Rhinestones A. PhillipeVintage Native Pacific Northwest Coast Sterling Silver Fish Cuff BraceletRare Retro Vintage Mazer Sterling Silver Pink Crystal Rhinestone Bird BroochVintage Erik Granit Finland Modernist 813 Silver Pendant Sterling Necklace Chain1940's Coro Corocraft Sterling Josephine Baker Enamel & Rhinestone Brooch PinUnusual Vintage Norway Gilt Sterling Silver Enamel NecklaceAntique Art Deco Austria Sterling Silver Guilloche Enamel Pendant NecklaceChunky Vintage Art Deco Sterling Silver Collar NecklaceCrazy Renaissance Revival Austro Hungarian Silver & Enamel Rampant Lion PendantVintage Volmer Bahner Denmark Sterling Silver Blue Enamel Butterfly Bracelet800 Silver Bracelet W/ Big Charms & Earring SetGorgeous Marcel Boucher Sterling Silver Rhinestone Brooch W/ Emerald StonesHuge Vintage Casa Maya Mexico Copper Sterling Silver Brass Bird Cuff BraceletOld Silver Marcasite+ Pearl Art Deco Drop Earrings, Pearl And 18ct Gold EarringsVintage Souvenir Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet Set Santa Claus Mounted PoliceVintage Silver Tone Rough Turquoise Bead 36" Large Southwestern NecklaceVintage Mma Egyptian Revival Gilt Sterling Silver Crystal Glass Hathor PendantVintage Jelly Belly Swordfish Pin, Unmarked SterlingAntique Victorian Sterling Silver Memento Locket BroochTested Sterling Silver Antique Art Deco Bracelet Flower Enamel Filigree Wow Q154Vtg Native Pacific Northwest Coast Engraved Sterling Silver Tribal Cuff BraceletAntique Art Nouveau Sterling Silver Abalone RingUltra Rare Early Victorian 835 Silver Fox Synthetic Diamond Long 3 Necklace SetAntique Art Nouveau Sterling Silver Sodalite Budding Flower RingVintage Jewellery Mexican Silver Charm Bracelet Vintage Mexico Antonio Pineda 970 Silver Leaf Motif Bracelet 74.4 GramsAntique European Renaissance Revival 800 Silver Festoon NecklaceVintage Art Deco Sterling Silver Aquamarine Glass/crystalopen Backed Necklace 1890s Antique Victorian White Gold Filled Genuine Cameo Brooch Pendant Nr 925Vintage Renaissance Revival Guglielmo Cini Sterling Silver Flower BroochStunning Vintage Estate Silver Tone Purple Clear Rhinestone Necklace!!! 479uAntique Georgian Paste Brooch For Repair Missing Clasp Tested Sterling SilverVintage Rare Art Deco Black Camphor Glass Sterling Necklace Earring Set. Antique Georgian 14k Gold Sterling Paste Ring Huge Marquise Shape Size 6Vintage 'mizpah' Sentimental Sterling Silver RingVintage 1920's Art Deco Sapphire Blue Glass Sterling Filigree Lavaliere NecklaceStunning Large Blue Silver & Enamel Dragonfly Brooch - Art DecoVintage Jewellery Beads Art Deco Silver Buckle ..brooches In BoxVintage Scottish Ortak Malcolm Gray Silver Celtic BroochVintage Silver Plated Filigree Butterfly / Moth Brooch In Ciro Box - V10 N02Lovely Vintage Carved Carnelian Agate & Bloodstone Flower Necklace Silver (2222)Sign Sterling By Coro Silver 925 Vintage Bracelet Flower Leaf Repair Clasp W100Vintage Einar Modahl Norway Sterling Silver Blue Enamel Button Clip EarringsAntique Jewellery Silver 1880s Scottish Citrine & Agate Small BroochVintage Jewellery Beautiful Sterling Silver Labradorite And Pearl BraceletGentleman's Antique Silver Albert Pocket Watch ChainVintage Art Deco Sterling Silver Onyx Pearl Dice CufflinksVintage Ciner Ruby Red Rhinestone Tennis Bracelet In Sterling SilverStunning Vintage 925 Silver Signed Reja Sterling Flower Brooch 46 Grams!!! G1878Vintage Jewellery Beautiful Abalone Shell Flower Pendant On A Silver ChainVintage Nettie Rosenstein Sterling Silver Figural Pipe Brooch W/ RhinestonesJuliana D&e Brooch Pin Ab Purple Clear Rhinestones 2 Layers Silver Metal 2.5"Signed 925 Espo Sig Sterling Silver Vtg Style Bracelet Multi Row Small Bead W236Lovely Vintage Sterling Silver Genuine Amber Honey Bee Brooch2 Superb Silver Mounted Butterfly Wing Pendants-one Tlm The Other Patented