CORO & TRIFARI PATENTED NECKLACES FROM THE PRE-1955 ERA
Recently I have been finding an increasing number of the most beautiful jewellery pieces that date from the pre-copyright era, and these pieces usually have something like ‘Pat. Pend.‘ stamped on the back or ‘Patent Applied for‘ or something like that. Sometimes they have an actual patent number, but usually they have been produced prior to the patent being granted. Patents took on average about three – five months to process, and the jewellery companies really didn’t have the time to wait for that !!
Two companies, in particular, used to patent their best designs in a vague attempt to prevent copying by rival brands, which was absolutely rife back then. Trifari and Coro both used the Patent system which at the time was the only way to get proof that a design was theirs. The copyright system was in place for jewellery design as far back as 1947, but the jewellery brands were very slow to pick up this method of design protection. Until 1955 that is…
WHAT HAPPENED IN 1955 ?
In 1955, there was a massive court case between Trifari and the Charel Jewelry Company. Trifari accused them of copyright infringement in their “Bolero” costume jewelry design range. This changed the way things were done forever. All the other brands held their collective breath over the outcome of this trial, which found in favour of the plaintiff, Trifari. This also resulted in jewellery brands switching to the copyright system, which was a much safer and quicker system altogether.
Sadly for us, it meant that anything bearing the copyright symbol has no dating information available, which then makes these patented designs immediately much more desirable to a collector. However, it also means that any design bearing a copyright mark must have been created after 1955.
I love the thrill of finding the patent for a particular piece because it gives you so much information about the design, particularly of course accurate dating as to its creation. Of course, a particular piece may have been in production for many years, but the patent drawing at least tells you when it was first designed. All the patent drawings come from this marvellous website, here:-
1. DIAMANTÉ CROWN DESIGN x 2 : 1950
These pieces are usually diamanté and faux pearl designs set in gold-plated or rhodium-plated settings (rhodium is a shiny chrome-like metal immensely popular in the post-war era of the 1940s and early 1950s.) The necklace featured above is a gorgeous piece dating from 1950. Featuring in inverted crown-like design, it’s very typical of the designs coming out of the Trifari studio at that time. I have two examples – one in gold, and the other in rhodium. Both are currently on sale for £60, and are just exquisite !!
2. FAUX PEARL NECKLACE : 1954
Here is a beautiful gold-plated faux pearl piece from Trifari, dating from 1954, and this one has baguette diamanté stones running through the middle of the centre motif. This is interesting because at some point in between applying for the patent of this design, and putting the necklace into production, someone decided that the design wasn’t actually complete and added a few more pearls to the design. This necklace has ‘Pat.Pend. stamped on its clasp, and so this must have happened in between patent application and the patent being granted. I actually prefer the original design myself, but there you go !! I’d love to learn of the conversation between the designer who created this and Alfred Phillipe, the Head of Design at Trifari, who signed all the patent applications.
3. RHODIUM FILIGREE-PANELLED CHOKER : 1951-2
This interesting filigree panelled choker necklace in rhodium-plated metal was designed and patented in December 1951, but the patent wasn’t finally granted until April 1952, so you can see the time lapse was around 4 months on average, which must have been frustrating for the companies who felt they needed to resort to this measure. As copying was rife among the rival brands, I don’t blame them – Coro and Trifari were particularly susceptible to design theft because they were massively popular and highly regarded for their quality and creativity.
4. GOLD-PLATED LEAFY BIB NECKLACE : 1954
I love this necklace – it’s just so pretty !! Pointy oval leaf-shaped diamanté stones set in gold-plated setting, with the bib design suspended on a sinuous snake chain – how beautiful !! This necklace is priced at £60, which is my usual price for these wonderful pieces.
1. AMETHYST GLASS DIAMANTÉ BIB NECKLACE : 1955-6
Of course, Trifari wsn’t the only design company that patented their designs – Coro was the other main user of patents, and this gorgeous amethyst-glass diamanté was one of the last designs to warrant a patent, as from 1955, probably just after this was applied for, everyone reverted to the Copyright system. This is a delicate leafy design using purple diamanté combined with clear baguette stones and gold-plated metal.
2. GOLD-PLATED DIAMANTÉ COLLARED NECKLACE : 1952
This is an unusual design featuring a pretty crystal droplet emerging from a gold-plated collar-effect bib necklace. I really like this one for its original design – no wonder Coro felt the need to patent their designs !! Signed by Adolf Katz, who was the Design Director at Coro for many years and, like Alfred Phillipe at Trifari, was responsible for all the designs coming out of their design studio, and signed all the patents applied for on behalf of the company.
3. GOLD-PLATED LEAFY NECKLACE WITH PINK DIAMANTÉ FLOWERS : 1953-4
Here is a pretty necklace and one that is a fairly typical Coro design – pretty little rosy-pink diamanté flowers and gold leaves entwined in a gold-plated setting. These necklaces were often produced under the Jewelcraft label for the UK Market, which was the British arm of Coro. The reason they called it Jewelcraft was a result of a very long-running court case against Coro, by Ciro Pearls, for possible intellectual copyright name infringement – it was considered that the name Coro was far too similar to Ciro and that the public would get the two confused. Ciro Pearls won !!
4. RHODIUM-PLATED DIAMANTÉ BIB NECKLACE : 1953
A truly interesting necklace this because the design is very modern, with the huge chain link effect – and the flower motif, set with baguette diamanté stones, sits at an angle with the bottom of the flower sticking out – see my mannequin photo. You can also see in this necklace just why rhodium-plating was so popular – it’s chrome-like appearance sits fantastically well with clear crystal diamanté stones, setting them off beautifully.
5. RHODIUM-PLATED BROOCH SET WITH PALE BLUE DIAMANTÉ STONES : 1953
Of course, it wasn’t only necklaces that were patented – all kinds of jewellery items got that treatment – bracelets, earrings, and of course brooches !! Here’s a fantastic example of the gorgeous diamanté brooches being produced by Coro back then. This is currently on sale for £25 in my Etsy shop.
When I sell any of these patented items, I do like to print off the Patent drawing and enclose it with the piece for the customer, as I think it’s fascinating little piece of jewellery history !!