The company that has made Trifari vintage costume jewelry since 1918 has operated under several names. Gustavo Trifari, an Italian who immigrated to the United States in 1904, had been trained in the business by his grandparents in Italy.
Gustavo and an uncle, Ludovico Trifari, began producing costume jewelry with a company called Trifari & Trifari. Gustavo left the company not long afterward, and then he and Leo Krussman founded the Trifari and Krussman Company. A few years later, in the mid-1920s, Carl Fishel joined the company and it was then named Trifari, Krussman & Fishel. The pieces at the time were signed “KTF”, with a large “T” that stood taller than the “K” and “F”.
Trifari was purchased by Hallmark in 1975 and Crystal Brands Jewelry bought the company in 1988. Chase Capital Partners, a division of the Monet Group, purchased Trifari in 1994. Liz Claiborne bought the Monet group in 2000 and Trifari is still a part of Liz Claiborne.
Trifari was the first costume jewelry maker to market its wares in a national advertising campaign. In 1938, the campaign “Jewels by Trifari” was launched and that slogan was used for decades. The advertisements were gorgeous and apparently were effective, or perhaps the combination of beautiful jewelry and solid marketing is what made Trifari highly successful.
Perhaps the most valuable Trifari costume jewelry pieces are the older Trifari sterling (Trifari, like other costume jewelers, had difficulty obtaining materials during World War II, so made pieces at that time with sterling silver); many of the enameled pieces, and the jelly belly jewelry.
The Trifari costume jewelry jelly belly line is truly distinctive. The jelly bellies were produced in the 1940s and were figurals, often birds or animals, featuring a clear belly made of Lucite. The Lucite belly was central to the jelly belly pieces. True jelly bellies do not feature a colored “belly,” but some Trifari pieces do feature a belly that was not made of the clear Lucite stone. These pieces are fun and probably collectible, but not true jelly bellies.
Also very popular with collectors are Trifari’s “Clair de Lune” vintage costume jewelry – pieces that feature half-moon shaped stones.
Trifari costume jewelry signed “KTF” is highly desired by collectors. It is much more collectable than the “KTF” pieces that were signed additionally with a crown over the T. Trifari pieces have been signed in numerous ways over the years, including the “KTF” configurations already mentioned, as well as:
- “Trifari” in plain print
- “Trifari” in plain print with a crown
- “Trifari” writtin in tall letters with a crown on top of the T.
- “Trifari Pat. Pending”
- Trifari sterling”
- Script “Jewels by” plain print “Trifari”
- “Trifari” with a small crown above the T and a copyright symbol, enclosed in a rectangle
Preston Reuther is a "Master Wire Sculptor" and has been collecting and selling Vintage Jewelry and Antique Cameos for over 20 years. He is a jewelry designer and has produced over 100 jewelry making videos, written several e books on jewelry sales and published over 1000 articles on jewelry design. See his entire collection at: WWW.CAMEOJEWELRY.COM and You may reach him at his studio in St. Joe at 1-816-689-2779