The Trifari brand is well known for their fine costume jewelry. Their pieces were created with the highest craftsmanship, in order to emulate high end jewelry. In this article, you will learn about Trifari Vintage Costume Jewelry, the history, materials, marks, most collectible pieces, and tips on how to buy.
History of Trifari Costume Jewelry
Gustavo Trifari arrived at Ellis Island in 1904 at the age of 20, from Italy. He came to America with a dream and by the 1910s, he established that dream with the creation of Trifari Jewelry. Jewelry had been in his family for years, with his father being a Napoli goldsmith.
By 1925, Trifari decided to partner with his sales managers, Leo Krussman and Carl Fishel, turning the company into Trifari, Krussman and Fishel. To this day, most of the jewelry is just known as Trifari.
In a great marketing move for the company, during the 1930s, Trifari started working with Broadway and Hollywood producers. Trifari would create custom costume jewelry pieces for famous actors, creating an instant form of advertising for the company.
One of Trifari’s greatest business moves though, was hiring Alfred Philippe as their Chief Designer. Alfred, a French craftsman, was with the company from 1930-1968, though prior to joining Trifari, he worked for Van Cleef & Arpels. With Van Cleef, he developed the use of the invisible setting, and he brought that over to the world of costume jewelry with Trifari. Invisible setting is a way of setting diamonds and gemstones to make it look like there are no prongs or bezels holding the stones in. It is almost as if the setting is invisible, hence the name!
This style had previously been known only in high end jewelry, like Van Cleef, so it was revolutionary to have brought this type of luxury into the costume jewelry world. The ability for Trifari to emulate high jewelry allowed them to broaden their clientele scope. Alfred not only brought this technique to Trifari, but also his fine level of craftsmanship. This impeccable work skill can be seen throughout all of Trifari’s pieces.
With this increased level of skill at Trifari, they started to gain well known celebrity clientele. One of their most famous clients was First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. During her time as First Lady, Mamie was ranked as one of the best-dressed women in the country by New York Dress Institute. She like to mix both high end and lower end items, which is where her love of costume jewelry, particularly Trifari, came in.
For the inaugural ball in 1953, Mamie had Alfred design a set of pearl jewelry for her. The set included a pearl choker necklace with a matching three stranded bracelet and earrings. There was a set made for her, the Smithsonian and Trifari archives. These pieces complimented her pink gown which was embroidered with rhinestones. She loved this set so much that she had Trifari design another for the inaugural ball in 1957.
Trifari continued to produce high quality pieces, well into the 1990s. In 1994 it became part of the Monet Group, and was then acquired by Liz Claiborne in 2000.
Watch the Following Video to see Examples of Trifari Jewelry
Trafari Jewelry Designers
- 1930s 40s 50s to 1966 - Alfred Philippe
- Late 1930s to 1940s - Alfred Spaney
- 1930s and 1940s - David Mir
- 1940 - Norman Bel Geddes
- 1940 - Joseph Wuyts
- Benedetto Panetta
- 1955 to 1970 - Lucius Passavanti
- 1958 to 1965 - Jean Paris
- 1967 to 1979 - Andre Boeut
- 1971 to 1974 - Diane Love
- 1970s - Jonathan Bailey
- 1980s to 1990s - Marcella Saltz (Usually signed her name)
During World War II, there were major metal rationing, which affected all businesses, including jewelry. Many jewelers, including Trifari, switched to Sterling Silver during this time. After the war, they wanted to go back to their previous metals, but customers were used to and like the silver. In order to accommodate their clientele, but while also staying fresh, Trifari started advertising a ‘new’ metal called Trifanium. Trifanium is a basic metal alloy which could be polished to a shiny finish, but wouldn’t tarnish like silver. You’ll see this metal in many of their pieces.
Similar to other costume jewelers of the time, Trifari used paste and imitation gemstones. We often see imitation moonstone, chalcedony and pearls. Rhinestones and enamel were also often used.
Most Collectible Styles
Trifari created many designs, but there are a few that stand out as some of the most prized. First we have the famous Trifari Crown Brooches. These pieces were one of Alfred’s designs which he made from the 1930s to 1950s. Designed in a crown motif, these pieces are very colorful and bright! Often you will see two large cabochons of imitation gemstones, with glittering rhinestones throughout. There was often a base of baguette cut imitation gemstones as well.
In order to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II taking the throne they created a Coronation Gem Series, which included a crown as well. These pieces became so popular and synonymous with the brand, that Trifari decided to incorporate a crown motif into their hallmark.
Another popular item was their Jelly Belly Brooches. During the 1940s, these brooches depicted animals such as seals, poodles and roosters. Poodles are the most rare and collectible. The belly consisted of a piece of lucite, often carved into a cabochon shape. Lucite is just a clear type of plastic.
During the 1940s, Trifari created many patriotic pins. These depicted American flags as well as red, white and blue eagles.
Many Trifari pieces had the look of diamonds, though they weren’t actually diamonds. These pieces were coined ‘Diamante’ items and were very popular.
Trifari was quite revolutionary in jewelry design. The company created Clip-Mates, where a large brooch could be separated into two dress clips. The wearer had the option of wearing it as one large piece or two smaller items.
Trifari came out with Limited Edition series' during the 1990's. These are the last of the signed Trifari pieces and are highly collectible.
Trifari Maker Marks
As with many costume jewelers, Trifari went through a few different maker marks, but they were very diligent about stamping their jewelry. They would produce advertisements that stated, “If it isn’t signed, it isn’t Trifari.” We suggest being cautious when purchasing something not signed, but advertised as Trifari.
These marks can help you to identify the age of your piece. During the 1920s through 1940s, you will often see the stamp ‘KTF’, with a larger ‘T’. This represents the three owners, Leo Krussman and Carl Fishel, along with Trifari himself.
Trifari Signed all of their Pieces
After the 1930s you’ll start to see ‘TRIFARI PAT PEND.’ or ‘PAT. Number’. This was then upgraded to a crown symbol, over the letter ‘T’ of ‘Trifari’, during the 1950s and 1960s.
There are some other marks we see often, such as ‘Trifari’ in script in an oval. Some Trifari necklaces have been embellished with a metal tag with a crown over a ‘T’. No matter the mark, it is just important that you see one.
List of Trifari Collections
- Gainsborough 1932
- Jewels of Tanjore 1945
- Talisman 1946
- Moghul 1949
- Scheherazade 1949
- Day and Night 1949
- Orientique by Trifari 1950
- Gems of India 1951
- Coronation Jewels 1952
- L'Opera 1952
- Evening Star 1954
- Pins A La Mode 1958
- Triege by Trifari 1958
- Sorrento 1959
- Etoile 1959
- Fantasia by Trifari 1960
- The Jewels of India 1965
- Trifari's Fireworks 1966
- L'Orient 1968
- Trifari Light 1968
- White Enamel Collection 1969
- Ming Collection 1972
- Diane Love Collection 1972
Identifying Trifari Jewelry
- The Trifari symbol is widely forged. An authentic Trifari mark rarely appears alone on a piece. Look for it with either the C in circle copyright symbol ©, the patent-pending wording, or the crown atop the capital T. The word by itself should raise a red flag.
- A sterling design marked Trifari, bearing a matte or frosted gold reverse finish, is another sign of a fake.
- 1940s jelly belly's carry extremely fine detailing on both front and back sides, often with the Lucite fastened to the metal work by a set-screw.
- Trifari figurals from the 1960s are distinguished by a "frosty" gold or silver finish both front and back, and carry a small rectangular nameplate.
Buying Trifari Vintage Costume Jewelry Online
Trifari can be purchased at many antique and estate shops and sales, but there is also an abundance of items to be found online.
I enjoy purchasing my vintage jewelry from Etsy or eBay.
Some tips for shopping for vintage jewelry online:
- Make sure you search within the Vintage section or include vintage in your search terms.
- Look for shops with lots of positive reviews.
- Read the shop's "Shipping and Policies" tab before making a purchase decision.
- Read reviews and buyers feedback, only buy from shops with consistently happy customers.
- If you find a shop you like, add them to your favorites or bookmark them so you can find them again.
- Be specific in your search keywords.
We’ve seen a few Etsy Stores that carry an abundance of Trifari items:
Adding a piece of Trifari jewelry to your costume jewelry collection would be a great purchase. These pieces are crafted with excellent care and talent, as well as with high end looking designs. You’ll always cherish your Trifari jewelry!
[Learn more: The Best Vintage Costume Jewelry Brands]
Please leave any questions you may have in the comments below, I always answer!
14 thoughts on “Trifari Vintage Costume Jewelry – A Buying Guide”
After my mother died I found a broch and ear rings to match in an old small box , I was curious about the year it was made , it has what looks like rhinestones in a swirling pattern on what looks like a silver base , the Trifari stamp on the back has a circle at the end , any help would be appreciated, Svetlana Gerhardt
Hello Svetlana, thanks for stopping in! Does the Trifari stamp have a crown above the T? If it does, it is most likely from the 1950’s or 60’s. If it is the Trifari name with a copyright symbol below it, all incased in an oval, it is most likely from the 1970’s or 80’s.
This was such an interesting read and helped me no end!
My great aunt was an English ‘Lady’s maid’ to some very American high society ladies in the 1930s and she left me a beautiful little Trifari duck brooch. The hall mark is Trifari Pat Pend so I guess she must have been really moving with the times to have got herself one of those – or perhaps one of her employers left it to her! I’ll never know as she passed away a few decades ago, but reading your detailed explanation makes me treasure my little duck all the more 🙂
Awe, that’s so great to hear Julie! Thanks for stopping in 🙂
Great article, Andrea! I found a bracelet marked Trifari, but have not been able to locate the trademark arrangement used online, thus am hesitant to purchase it if I can’t date it properly. There appears to be a tall crown over the ‘T,’ but the copyright symbol is placed above the last of the text, i.e., ‘ari’ rather than at the end of the text. I can’t imagine someone would’ve gone to the trouble to ‘fake’ a Trifari, so it’s more a matter of dating it correctly. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Cate, thanks for stopping in 🙂 Unfortunately, Trifari is a brand that is forged often. I have not seen a genuine Trifari mark that has the copyright symbol above the middle of the word. I have seen it below the word like that, but not above. I would suggest contacting the seller and asking for more information on where the piece was sourced from, and make sure that the seller has good customer reviews. Where are you buying from?
I have a trifari watch that I have been trying to research for a few years now but I can't find anything like it or no information about it can you please help me
Hi Kevin, I don’t know a lot about Trifari watches, but I did find an article that mentions some Trifari watches designed by Diane Love. She says she designed watches with samurai swords as elements. Other than that I see that there are some Trifari watches for sale on eBay and Etsy. Have you tried looking there to see if you can find a similar watch to yours?
Another place to look for Trifari jewelry is old jewelry advertisements. Here are some links:
Illusion Jewels – Vintage Trifari Jewelry Ads
Morning Glory Antiques – Jewelry Advertising, Trifari Ads, 1940s
Morning Glory Antiques – Trifari Catalogue, Fall and Winter of 1966
Also, have a look at Pinterest.
I recently came across an alleged Trifari chain bracelet. It’s very delicate, and bears a Trifari crown mark, but also “Italy 14k”. This can’t be authentic, can it? Or does it come from the tiny slice of wartime production where they used “real” metal such as sterling? (I thought it was only ever sterling…)
I have not tested the bracelet for purity yet.
Thanks for your time!
Hi Vienna, thanks for your question 🙂 Is the mark just a crown? It should say the word Trifari or have a T along with the crown. I did a bit of research and it looks like Trifari did make some 14k gold jewelry, but not sure they made more than just rings. An old magazine add states “World’s most sensational alternative to a diamond”, that goes on to say, “would such firey brilliance and fine white color belong to anything other than a diamond? Yes, one. Triamond simulated diamond. In 14K yellow or white gold rings…”, In the ad, under the the word Triamond there is the following citation: “simulated diamonds by Raytheon”.
And from The New York Times dated January 3, 1971: “Marketed by Trifari, Kruss man and Fishel, Inc., a leading costume jeweler, the Raytheon diamond, named Triamond, is available at Lord & Taylor and will soon be introduced across the nation at jewelry stores. The Linde simulated diamond is produced by Union Carbide, the same company which makes man‐made rubies, sapphires and emeralds, and is available at jewelry stores.”
Hi, I have a Crown Trifari gold-tone and brown enamel 7" bracelet with 60 links. I am trying to get an idea of its value and I found a similar one on ebay that is also 7", but only has 40 links. The finishing work on the backside of my bracelet looks much finer than the one on ebay and the links on my bracelet are much thinner. Did Crown Trifari alter their designs to make them less expensive to manufacture? The stamp has a crown above the T in Trifari on both bracelets. Thanks for your help!
Hi Jennifer, as far as I know Trifari is made to the same quality standards today as in the past. I suppose its possible one of them is a fake, as fake Trifari pieces do exist. Its also possible they are just different designs. If the quality is good and the stamp is accurate, then I would assume they are both genuine.
Hi, I have a bracelet with the ktf engraving. it also has two other markings. I was wondering if you might know what they are? one mark looks like 14 possibly and the other mark looks like the the letters LTK maybe. I put a link to the pictures below in the website information.
Hello Nicole, KTF is, of course, the KTF Trifari company name. The 14 may refer to 14K gold, although you did not specify what your bracelet is made of. I found the letter T used by Trifari in 1982, but it is a single letter set in an oval. Trifari jewelry was produced under many different names and collections over the years. I can’t find a specific reference to LTK though.
All the best,