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 Victorian French Sterling Silver Rose Gold Star Bangle BraceletTrifari Alfred Philippe Sterling Jelly Belly Spider Brooch/clipUnusual Antique Art Deco Sterling Silver Enamel BraceletVintage Art Deco Danecraft Cast Sterling Silver Water Lily Flower BraceletAntique Victorian Edwardian Sterling Silver Moss Agate NecklaceAntique Victorian Sterling Silver Repousse Flower Basket & Horn Hair CombAntique Victorian Engraved Sterling Silver Repousse Bangle BraceletVintage Jewellery Beautiful Moonstone Tear Drop Pendant Silver ChainVintage Jewellery Fabulous Modernist Silver & Peridot Crystal Ring Size 'm'Wide Vintage English Sterling Silver Gate Bracelet With Heart Lock ClaspAntique Victorian Sterling Silver Repousse Puffy 2.5” Large Belt Buckle LocketVintage Jewellery Beautiful Silver & Australian Opal Pendant NecklaceVintage 1940s Early Hobe Sterling Silver Repousse Flower Leaf NecklaceWide Vintage Old Mexico 950 Pierced Sterling Silver Amethyst Cuff BraceletAntique Art Deco Sterling Silver Open Back Emerald Crystal Paste Stone BraceletTrifari Jelly Belly Rhinestone Sterling Fur ClipHigh End Vintage Crown Trifari Sterling Orhcid W/rhinestones Brooch !!Vintage Jewellery Stunning Silver & Amethyst Glass Crystal BraceletAntique Arts & Crafts Art Nouveau Signed Hermann Bauer Silver Enamel Brooch PinVintage Jewellery Sweet All Silver Charm Bracelet With 25 CharmsVintage Sterling Silver Scottish John Hart Cairngorm Iona Thistle BroochVintage Jewellery Lovely Silver Modernist Disc Link Bracelet SignedVintage Sterling Silver Scottish Cjl Celtic Design Collar Necklace Antique Arts & Crafts Hand Hammered Sterling Silver Art Glass Hair CombVintage Fischland Germany Modernist 835 Fine Silver Baltic Amber BraceletBig Vintage Signed Reja Gilt Sterling Silver Rhinestone BroochVintage 1929 Elegant Art Deco Heavy Crystal Glass Silver Plated NecklaceFabulous Rennie Mackintosh Sterling Silver Pendant And 22" Chain - V8 E09 Sterling Silver Decorative Amethyst Leaf Necklace Antique Art Deco Sterling Silver Open Back Emerald Crystal Paste Stone NecklaceVintage Jewellery Beautiful Green & Yellow Amber Silver NecklaceAntique Art Deco Sterling Silver Channel Set Crystal Rhinestone Bangle BraceletVintage 1920's Art Deco Signed Germany Onyx Marcasite Sterling Filigree NecklaceVintage Antique Art Deco 1930's Sterling Silver Butterfly Wing Pin Brooch 6.13gVtg Victorian Revival Riviere Pink Glass Silver Open Back NecklaceAntique Victorian Sterling Silver Bird Brooch & Engraved Gold Filled LocketVintage Antique Edwardian Silver Hall Marked Brooch Pin 'pearce And Thompson'Grandmas Estate Beautiful Old Pawn Sterling Silver Big Chunky BraceletVintage Art Deco Silver Plate Filigree Blue Rhinestone Bangle BraceletAntique .800 Fine Silver Enamel Ladies Pocket Watch Necklace PendantVintage Jewellery Silver & Tanzanite Swarovski Crystal Drop Bracelet 'fiorelli'Vintage Crown Trifari Sterling Jelly Belly 3.5" Heron W/rhinestones Brooch Vtg Art Deco Silver Filigree Topaz Citrine Marcasite Dangle Pendant EarringsVintage Tifari Silver Tone With Blue Moonstone/rhinestone Choker Style NecklaceAntique Chinese Silver Plate Enamel Yellow Glass Bracelet Vintage Sterling Silver/9ct Gold Scottish Handmade Band RingWhiting Davis Silver Tone Mesh Triple Coil Serpent Snake Jewelry Bangle BraceletRare Trifari Sterling Silver Rhinestone Rock Crystal Jelly Belly Penguin BroochVintage Coro Sterling Coro Craft Dangle Brooch Pin Pearls Rhinestones Vintage Fabulous Leopard Skin Blue And White Jasper & Silver BraceletVintage Sterling Silver Connemara Marble Leaf/leaves Brooch Vintage Gold Over 900 Silver Genuine Bohemian Garnet Bangle BraceletBig Antique Late Victorian Sterling Silver Green Guilloche Enamel Buckle BroochVintage Stylish Silver Peacock Ladies Brooch With Antique Jewellery Trinket BoxAntique Sterling Silver Art Deco Czech Necklace Green Art Glass Paper Clip Chai Vintage Silver Cameo Pendant With Silver Cameo Screwback Earrings Grandmas Estate Western Sterling Silver Chunky Turquoise Ring Victorian Wide Solid 835 Silver Filigree Wide Carved Italy Shell Cameo BraceletStunning Vintage Gold Silver Tone Hideaway Watch Necklace Pendant!!! 6175iAntique Georgian Enclosed Back 'black Dot' Paste Silver Brooch