TRIFARI – “If It Isn’t Signed, It Isn’t Trifari”
Gold-plated necklace from the 1960s – £35
Trifari jewellery is probably one of my most popular vintage jewellery brands that I sell in my Etsy shop “Vintage Jewellery Fun” The reason for its popularity is plain to see – gorgeously elegant designs in plain matt, brushed or a mix of textured and shiny gold-plated finishes, understated design, combined with fine detailing and a strong sense of realism in their flowers and leaves, all mean that their designs are now highly desirable amongst collectors and vintage jewellery lovers.
Matching sets of brooch and earrings – these are all £50, (except for the shoal of fish which has sold) – Trifari section – Vintage Jewellery Fun
The Trifari pieces that most represent the elegance of the 1950s are the matching sets of two, three or four pieces. Designs were produced in matching ranges, but today we’d be very lucky to find the complete four piece set, (a Grand Parure) of necklace, brooch, earrings and bracelet. What you are more likely to find is a brooch with matching earrings, or a necklace and matching bracelet or earrings instead. Fashionable women of taste and discernment chose Trifari because it most looked like the jewellery they loved to look at in magazines, but just couldn’t afford. The Cartier price-level jewellery was out of reach of all but the most wealthy of women, so Trifari was the next best thing. They produced mostly plain gold-plated designs, but also used clear diamanté to great effect. Sparkly crystal glass cut in marquis, baguettes and ovals as well as the conventional round diamanté stones produced a dazzling array of jewels to wear and impress. This was the age of the cocktail party, and entertaining the husband’s boss and his wife to dinner, so Trifari jewellery was the best brand to wear with the LBD !!
Two vintage Trifari magazine adverts from 1963 !!
Since the 1920s, Trifari has been one of the most respected and admired producers of costume jewellery in the United States. Founded in 1910 by Gustavo Trifari the company has designed jewellery that’s been worn by countless high-profile clients, from Mamie Eisenhower to Madonna.
Gustavo Trifari was the Italian-immigrant son of a Napoli goldsmith, who arrived at Ellis Island in 1904 at the age of 20. In 1910 he founded “Trifari and Trifari” with his uncle. Gustavo’s uncle left the company a few years later, and so Gustavo continued the company under the name of “Trifari.” Leo Krussman joined Trifari in 1917, and Carl Fishel joined as head of sales in 1925. The company name was then changed to “Trifari, Krussman and Fishel” and the logo “KTF” (with an enlarged “T” at the centre) was used to mark the jewellery. Trifari vintage jewellery pieces from this era are extremely rare, as the mark was only used for several years.
KTF Dress clip from the 1920s/30s – rhodium-plated metal set with round and baguette diamanté stones – KTF Dress clip – £85
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 customers were 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-plated finish. They used it as a base for all of their beautiful gold-plated jewellery too. Trifari jewellery is mostly in very fine to excellent condition after all this time, which is a tribute to the fine quality of the Trifari manufacturing processes. These pieces are very likely to be heavily gold-plated over Trifari’s own Trifanium alloy, using a layer of gold that was 8 times thicker than the industry standard of the day. This was the normal process for all of their gold-coloured jewellery from the 1950s right through to when the company was bought out.
A big selection of Trifari brooches, dress clips and necklaces dating from the 50s and 60s – most of these are still available from Vintage Jewellery Fun – Trifari £25 – £70
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. 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. Vintage Trifari pieces from this era with this logo stamped on the reverse are referred to as ‘Crown Trifari’.
At this time, all the important pieces were patented to protect them from being copied. Many of the original patent documents are still available to view at this website:-
Four items of patented jewellery, all signed off by Alfred Philippe, ranging from 1950 – 1954. First necklace – Filigree necklace – £50 (The rest all sold.)
PATENT / COPYRIGHT LAW
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. The lengthy business of patenting your jewellery designs was abandoned forthwith, in favour of the more efficient copyright system, which gave your valuable designs protection immediately.
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.
Trifari was very diligent about signing all of their jewellery. All their magazine advertising stated that “If it isn’t signed, it isn’t Trifari.”
Here is a small chart of the brand logos used by the Trifari company from 1925 – 1990s. The Crown Trifari logo was used up to the beginning of the 1970s, after which they switched to an oval carouche with an italic signature. During the very late 1980s, they switched again to all upper case with a dot instead of a crossbar on the ‘A’. There are many jewellery cards with this logo on, but beware that the jewellery pinned to it may not actually necessarily be Trifari, as they were NOT all signed after this date. In 2000, the company was sold to Liz Claiborne and production was moved overseas. Since then, lesser quality jewellery has been mass produced and sold on Trifari cards without any stamps on the jewelry. Recently, some necklaces have been produced overseas with a new Trifari hang tag, but these are NOT vintage pieces.
It’s also important to note when a company had a large inventory of clasps or other findings that were already stamped, they would continue to use them on newer jewellery, so signatures will often overlap these dates.
All this makes Trifari one of the most sought after brands in the vintage jewellery market, and their famous Crown Trifari pieces from the 50s and 60s are possibly the most sought after of all.