Let’s look at some characteristics of Trifari costume jewelry from the 1930s to the ’50s.
From 1937 to at least the 1950s, Trifari’s premier designer was Alfred Phillipe. Popular brooch designs were geometric, florals, leaves and berries, animals and people. Colored and clear rhinestones were set in intricate patterns, or combined with pastel colored plastic inserts in the shape of flowers. Many are signed “KTF”. Watch for age-darkened rhinestones, a common flaw on these early pieces.
The 1940s saw Joseph Wuyts’ designs join Alfred Philippe. Florals were still very popular, in addition to birds, fish, hearts, and figures. Brooches featured colorful enameled flowers and sparkling rhinestones. Poured glass was another method used to depict flowers. Pave rhinestones (an all-over pattern rhinestones very close together) combined with red or black enamel were commonly found features on jewelry from the early 1940s.
During the War years, Sterling Silver was used in costume jewelry, as other metals were needed for the war effort. “Jelly Belly” jewelry made its appearance in 1943. These were clear lucite “bellies” that formed the bodies of animal, fish and bird figures. Authentic jelly belly pieces are very collectible, but be aware that some jelly belly jewelry has been reproduced.
The late 1940s saw more abstract designs, with florals and bird designs still popular. More jelly bellies and lots of pave rhinestones were featured. A 1949 Poodle brooch with a green jelly belly is very popular with collectors.
In the 1950s designs became even more abstract, and flowers, leaves, bows, hearts and animals in rhinestones, plastic, and jelly bellies were very popular. White plastic motifs such as apples, pears and flowers set in gold-tone metal were very desirable, as well as multi-colored rhinestone brooches and earrings.
In the 1950s charm bracelets became popular, and Trifari produced charms of the signs of the Zodiac. These charms sold for $5.00! I would have had to baby-sit for 10 hours to earn enough for one, plus another 4 hours for the bracelet!
Necklaces of gold tone with clear and colored rhinestones were featured in the 1950s, and flower-and-leaf designs were popular. The late ’50s saw plastic and enamel pieces in white and turquoise, as well as sparkling rhinestone brooches in flower, key and wreath shapes.
As you can see, there were many many designs of Trifari costume jewelry down through the years. If you’re lucky enough to come across a vintage piece, examine it closely, be sure that it is indeed vintage, and be proud to add it to your collection.