Known as the "founding fathers" of the costume jewelry industry, Gustavo Trifari and Leo F. Krussman were both working in the same field— hair ornament design, manufacture, and sales—when they merged their talents to create their company in 1918. In 1925 Carl Fishel joined the firm, and by 1930 the noted designer Alfred Philippe, whose designs had been sold in both Cartier and Van Cleef and Arpels, completed the team that would become one of the most revered names in the industry.
Philippe brought to Trifari the idea of using of Austrian crystals in their creations, a relatively new concept at that time. These brilliantly colored stones were hand set, just as fine jewelry, with glittering results. One of the best-known Trifari pieces is the crown pin of 1941, made of sterling silver, overlaid with gold, and set with faux cabochons and rhinestones, which became one of their signature designs.
Trifari creations sparkled throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, appearing in several Broadway productions. The company is renowned for its delicate and intricate design of highly stylized brooches, fur clips, and patriotic jewelry such as flags, eagles, and military symbols, including England's Royal Air Force emblem, created during World War II.
Using the influences of Art Deco and Art Moderne, Trifari designs reflected understated elegance for both day and evening in the form of cuffs, bibs, and parures. The company was the first fashion jewelry firm to advertise nationally, beginning in 1938, placing the Trifari name in the mind of the costume-jewelry buying woman of style.
Undoubtedly, First Lady Mamie Eisenhower was one of the admirers of Trifari who helped make certain the company's name would go down in history when she commissioned Alfred Philippe to design the pieces she would wear on the evening of her husband's 1953 inauguration. As the first-ever president's wife to wear a pink ballgown, she was also the first to wear costume jewelry to an Inaugural Ball and did so again in 1957. On both occasions, she wore Trifari faux pearls. Her triple-strand choker is permanently exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution.
Baker, Lillian. Fifty Years of Collectible Fashion Jewelry. Paducah, Ky.: Collector Books, 1986.
Klein, Mim. A Look at Three Great Costume Jewelry Houses: Monet, Trifari, Haskell. West Chester, Pa.: Schiffer, 1998.
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