Trifari (1918 – ) Gustavo Trifari came from Italy to America in 1904 and established Trifari NYC in 1910. Gustavo apprenticed with his uncle in Trifari & Trifari for several years. Gustavo’s grandfather Luigi was a goldsmith who had a small workshop in Naples in the mid-1800s producing fine jewelry. It was there that Gustavo learned the jewelry trade.
In 1917, Leo Krussman joined the Trifari Company as sales director and later became a partner. The company changed its name to the Trifari and Krussman Company. In the early 1920s, a third partner, Carl Fishel, also became a partner and, again the company changed its name. Now it was known as Trifari, Krussman & Fishel.
Since then, Trifari has been one of the most respected and admired producers of costume jewelry in the United States. The company has designed jewelry worn by celebrity clients from Mamie Eisenhower to Madonna.
Trifari’s success and its desirability is most often credited to French designer Alfred Philippe who was Trifari’s chief designer from 1930 until 1968. In the 1940’s the company name was changed back to “Trifari” and its work began to bear the famous Trifari Crown logo stamped on the pieces.
The crown logo derived from Philippe’s designs for the Trifari Crown pins created beginning in the late 1930s to the 1950s. The crowns were so popular that Trifari incorporated the 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.
Metal rationing during World War II prevented Trifari from using it in their pieces. This forced Trifari to switch to sterling silver which increased the price of Trifari products. After the war, Trifari wanted to return to using less costly, maintenance-free metal, but customers were used to silver. To hype the return to a cheaper base metal, the company began advertising a “revolutionary” new metal called Trifanium. This was a bogus name for their basic metal and, unlike silver, could be given a no-polish rhodium finish.
Trifari continued to be run by its founder and his sons until 1975, when the company was sold to Hallmark Jewelry Company. In 1988 the company was sold to Crystal Brands and in 1994 sold to Chase Capital Partners and Lattice Holding Company, a division of the Monet Group. During that time, high end, collectible Trifari jewelry was produced for sale on QVC. Many of these were Limited Editions, and collectors highly prize them as the last of the signed Trifari Jewelry.
In 2000 the Monet Group was purchased by Liz Claiborne and production was moved overseas. This ended the high quality, signed Trifari jewelry. Liz Claiborne Inc. continues to produce Trifari jewelry overseas, but these are lesser quality, unsigned pieces on Trifari cards.
Trifari is now considered one of the largest and best known producers of costume jewelry. Its name is associated with hair ornaments, buckles, and bar pins in silver and base metals set with rhinestones. Later designs include costume jewelry of superb design and workmanship at different price levels.
Trifari has a distinctive look that resembles the fine jewelry that Alfred Philippe created. He used high quality imported Swarovski rhinestones that were hand-set in the jewelry piece.
There were also other well-known designers associated with Trifari including Jean Paris (1958 – 1965), Andre Boeuf (1967 – 1979), and Diane Love (1971-1974) who designed the company’s modern and contemporary jewelry through the 1970s.
Until the 1960s, Trifari led the world in costume jewelry production with high quality and style seen in the sterling vermeil figurals of the 1940’s to its contemporary classic gold and silver-tone jewelry. The Trifari figurals, retro florals, and jelly-bellies from the 1930s and 1940s continue to be prized and sought after by today’s collectors.
Some of Trifari Crown pins feature brightly colored, highly polished, convex-cut gems known as cabochons. Others are composed entirely of clear crystal rhinestones for a monochromatic effect. 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 of these command a good price, the poodles are especially rare.
Other vintage Trifari costume jewelry includes floral pins from the 1930s and fruit and vegetable pieces from the 1950s. Collectors often seek the miniature fruit pins that include apples, pineapples, grape bunches, strawberries, and others produced from the late 1950s through the 1960s. These single pieces, usually finished in matte silver or gold, were worn by singly or in groups. Also popular are the patriotic pins from the 1940s of American flags and red-white-and-blue eagles.