Since the 1920s, Trifari has been one of the most respected and admired producers of costume jewelry in the United States. Founded in the 1910s by Gustavo Trifari, the Italian-immigrant son of a Napoli goldsmith, the company has designed jewelry that’s been worn by countless high-profile clients, from Mamie Eisenhower to Madonna.
The success of Trifari, and the reason for its collectibility today, is most often credited to French designer Alfred Philippe, the company’s chief designer from 1930 until 1968. His use of invisible settings for stones, which he originally developed for Van Cleef and Arpels, added a level of craftsmanship and technique that had not been previously seen in costume jewelry.
Among Philippe’s countless contributions are the Trifari Crown pins from the late 1930s to the 1950s. The crowns were so popular that Trifari incorporated a crown into its mark in about 1937. Authentic Trifari jewelry is typically marked with "Jewels by Trifari," "TKF" (for Trifari, Krussman & Fishel), or "Trifari," depending on when it was made.
Some of the Trifari Crown pins feature eye-catching, brightly colored cabochons. Others are composed entirely of clear crystal rhinestones for a monochromatic effect. Naturally, a series of Coronation Gems was produced in 1953 to celebrate the ascendancy of Elizabeth II to the British throne.
Trifari’s Jelly Belly pins of seals, poodles, roosters, and other animals appeared in the 1940s. Each animal’s "belly" consists of a solid Lucite "pearl" with settings of sterling silver or gold plate. Although any Jelly Belly from this decade is going to command a good price, the poodles are especially rare.
Other categories of vintage Trifari costume jewelry to look for are the vintage floral pins from the 1930s and the fruit and vegetable pieces from the 1950s. In particular, collectors like the miniature fruit pins (apples, pineapples, grape bunches, and strawberries, to name a few) from the late 1950s through the 1960s. These single pieces, usually finished in a matte silver or gold, were worn by themselves or in groups. Also popular are the patriotic pins from the 1940s of American flags and red-white-and-blue eagles.
Like all manufacturers during World War II, Trifari was unable to use metal in its products due to rationing. This forced Trifari to switch to sterling silver during the war, which tripled prices for Trifari products (although that didn’t seem to hurt sales). Post-war, Trifari wanted to go back to less costly, maintenance-free metal, but its audience was now used to silver. To hype the return to a cheaper base metal, the company began advertising a "revolutionary" new metal called Trifanium, which was a made-up name for their basic metal — unlike silver, it could be given a no-polish rhodium finish...
The campaign worked so well that by 1953, Mamie Eisenhower felt perfectly comfortable to break with tradition and wear costume jewelry to the inaugural ball. To match the First Lady’s pink satin gown (studded with 2,000 rhinestones), Alfred Philippe designed an "orientique" pearl choker with matching three-stranded bracelet and earrings, each laden with eight pearls. Three sets were made: one for the First Lady, a second for the Smithsonian, and a third for the Trifari archives. Mrs. Eisenhower was so pleased with the ensemble that she had Trifari make jewelry for her second inaugural ball in 1957.
Key terms for Vintage Trifari Costume Jewelry:
Cabochon: A stone that has been shaped and polished instead of faceted. It usually has a flat back and a shape that is round or oval.
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Recent News: Trifari Costume Jewelry
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Secondhand is still top drawer in Palm BeachFairfield Daily Republic, November 20th
My first Coco moment was a long string of glass pearls and interlocking Cs from a vintage jewelry store in West Palm Beach. I looped the 88-inch chain around my neck like an infinity scarf, channeling the spirit of its previous owner, a Parisian woman...Read more
In Palm Beach County, secondhand designer clothes are as good as the first timeWashington Post, November 11th
They led me to a display of beaded necklaces by Coppola E. Toppo that cascade down the neck like a waterfall, delicate flower-shape brooches by Trifari, and transcendent art deco pieces by Theodor Fahrner. In the Bakelite section, Brett pulled out a...Read more
Kate Spade & Co (NYSE:KATE) reported third-quarter net incomeInside Trade, November 6th
The company offers apparel, handbags, briefcases, travel bags, small leather goods, tabletop products, legwear, bedding, stationery, jewelry, apparel, footwear, optics, fragrances, electronics cases, fashion accessories, beauty, and home décor products...Read more
Antique Buster Brown items can fetch lot of greenHeraldNet, November 5th
It became famous for its silver hollowware and flatware and also for jewelry. When Charles Lewis Tiffany died in 1902, his son Louis Comfort ... Simplicity, prairie skirt and top, No. 3978, 1952, size 12, $20. Pin, fan shape, white glass, gold plated...Read more
Buster Brown kept long retail legacyTyler Morning Telegraph, November 2nd
It became famous for its silver hollowware and flatware and also for jewelry. When Charles Lewis Tiffany died in 1902, his son Louis Comfort ... Pin, fan shape, white glass, gold plated, Trifari, c. 1966, 2 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches, $100. Advertising sign...Read more
Hindman Jewelry Sales Bring $8.52 MillionMaine Antique Digest, October 28th
For all three sales we did 92% sell-through, and the sales grossed just over $8.52 million, which is the largest in our history,” according to Alexander Eblen, director of fine jewelry and timepieces at Leslie Hindman. ..... a host of designer haute...Read more
Costume jewelry collectors in townThe Providence Journal, October 11th
For two days, the attendees will listen to speakers, such as former designers at Trifari and Coro, mingle at social events and honor local business owners, such as Ron Verri, of Gem Craft, in Providence. There will also be a costume jewelry show open...Read more
3 tips to determine value of costume jewelryazcentral.com, August 20th
On the kitchen table was a pile of costume jewelry the lady was going to donate because she thought it was worthless. I quickly scanned what she had, and started pulling out pieces that weren't, in fact, cheap costume jewelry but actually well-known...Read more