I’ve been finding lots of fabulous vintage costume jewelry lately in my travels to estate sales and really coming to appreciate the styles. This surprises me to some extent because I’ve always thought of myself
as a minimalist when it comes to jewelry, preferring to wear a few quality understated pieces rather than lots of glam and glitter. However, I’m developing a taste for the rhinestones and faux stones in many midcentury brooches, necklaces, and earrings. It’s fun to sparkle without spending a mint on high-end jewelry with genuine gemstones!
One of the brands I’ve learned to look for is Trifari, which has been making quality costume jewelry in the United States since the 1920s. The company was founded in 1910 by Italian immigrant Gustavo Trifari, according to Collectors Weekly. The most collectible pieces were designed by Alfred Philippe, Trifari’s chief designer from 1930-1968. According to CW, Philippe’s craftsmanship and use of invisible settings for stones elevated Trifari’s pieces above most other costume jewelry on the market.
A few more fun Trifari facts mentioned in the CW piece:
The popularity of Trifari crown pins, produced from the 1930-50s, led the company to incorporate the crown into its maker’s mark starting in 1937.
Authentic Trifari markings include: “Jewels by Trifari,” “TKF” (for Trifari, Krussman & Fishel), or “Trifari.
Miniature fruit pins from the 1950s-60s are especially collectible.
Trifari switched from gold metal to sterling silver during WWII due to rationing.
Mamie Eisenhower wore Trifari costume jewelry to her inaugural balls in 1953 and 1957. For the first occasion, Mr. Philippe custom designed an “orientique” pearl choker with matching bracelet and earrings which is now on display at the Smithsonian.
Animal themed Jelly Belly pins feature a solid Lucite pearl for the belly. Most sought after: The poodle.
It’s fun to look at some of the advertisements for the jewelry that appeared in popular fashion magazines in the 1940s and 1950s. These vintage ads are from Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry’s photo gallery:
Some of my Trifari finds, now listed in my Etsy shop: