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Trifari Vintage Costume Jewelry Complete Review-Guide

Updated on May 4, 2012

Trifari Jewelry

Once one of the most popular jewelry companies around, Trifari today enjoys a renaissance as a vintage brand. Its necklaces, bracelets, sets, and in particular the pins and the brooches have gradually garnered a reputation of industry classics, sought for by collectors and wearers alike. A loyal following of fans with a taste for figurative costume jewelry that displays a simple, yet enduring charm continues to expand, fueling a lively market, both on and off line.


From early to late 20th century Trifari went through several transformations, changing trademark symbols (including the well known crown “T,” and T.F.K.), designers, and owners. Alfred Philippe, a mythical jewelry designer who collaborated with Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels – two brands that continue to prosper today – worked with Trifari for many years, leaving an indelible mark on the company.


Materials employed in Trifari jewelry include crystal cabochons, Lucite, stones, faux gems and pearls, real pearls, molded glass, rhinestones, sterling silver, non-precious alloy (such as “Trifarium”, brand invention), and others. Importantly, Trifari was conceived as an affordable brand, and today can still be affordable, though collector's and vintage value raise the prices with time.

Trifari Jewelry Design Features

During the 40s, 50s, and 60s of the 20th century Trifari introduced multiple jewelry lines that express and channel different fashion ideas. Some of the more notable influences include Art Deco, and later Op Art – proving how closely costume fashion and art could (and still can) be related.

There are several principles which the succession of designers across the years upheld as basic aesthetic guidelines:

  • Organic: Trifari jewelry is never forced, and each piece appears to have evolved in its own time. Perhaps “bloomed” would be a more appropriate description, as many Trifari pieces ensue from natural botanical and animal shapes. From a technical point of view, cleverly concealed settings for the beads and the rhinestones contribute to this characteristic.

  • Resourceful: This feature pairs with Trifari's vintage status – few contemporary jewelry brands display such a broad range of themes, and such effortless, artistically ingenious ways of processing them into consummate pieces. Designs are often straightforward, not unlike some schools of Netsuke, and can show touches of humor and innocence.

  • Intuitive: The unforced way in which the stones are distributed indicates intuitive understanding of composition. Sometimes gem and rhinestone arrangements might appear spontaneous, so easily they blend, yet they clearly result from careful planning, and reveal insight into how stones and alloys interact.

Types of Jewelry

Looking for the right piece can take some time, especially considering the amount of data that should be taken into account: type, materials (rhinestones and pearls, as well as silver tone and gold tone alloys being very popular), date of production, condition of the desired item, and so on. Click on the links to read dedicated reviews on these Trifari jewelry types.

  • Brooches comprise an essential part of brand assortment; they condense main design elements described above into a single, relatively large piece. Each brooch attaches to clothing, usually in the chest area – literally embodying the phrase “costume jewelry.” Themes include birds, animals, florals, and occasionally abstract motifs. Iconic “Fruit Salad” and “Jelly Belly” creations constitute the most sought for category.

  • Pins – in effect smaller brooches – can function as decorative fashion components or as universal fasteners or clips, for which numerous uses can be found and invented. Either way, fabric, not skin, becomes their backdrop surface, hence providing for more leeway in attire planning. Surprising, humorous subjects include exotic animals, everyday objects, playthings, besides fairy and magical allusions.

  • Necklaces usually display rich, densely ornamented configurations, often completely symmetrical and even (such brands as Silpada and Tiffany offer modern alternatives with irregularities and asymmetries) – classic choker models make up the bulk of what's on offer. Some of the necklaces contain a centerpiece: a single large stone (sapphires, emeralds, rubies), or a more elaborate combination of cabochons, beads, enamelled flowers, or other components.

  • Earrings tend to display less loaded modelling (a sensible shift considering that they cover less space), allowing the natural charm to really shine – earrings hence become, we think, among Trifari's most charming pieces. Models include clips, drops, hoops, and other.

  • Bracelets notably replicate basic necklace patterns, sometimes almost exactly, sometimes with a twist. There are also completely independent modulations, which continue to explore symmetry and classic ornamentation, using familiar materials. Bracelets (only except the bangle type) can be considerably more delicate than the necklaces.

  • Pendants, single or double, combine with necklaces (and earrings). Almost always complementary pieces, they allow to shift the accent from the neck towards the cleavage.

  • Sets gather various items under the umbrella of a common design theme: the same stones and alloys create units or bouquets that recur in a pair of earrings, bracelet, necklace, and occasionally a ring. The variety of jewelry types, combined with aesthetic consistency, produces a powerful template that effectively expresses Trifari fashion ideas.


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