The history of Trifari jewellery
Gustavo Trifari came from a family of fine jewellers and in America in 1918 he and Leo Kraussman went into partnership. This partnership was successful but the business really started its climb to fame when they were joined by a third partner, Carl Fishel, in 1925. At this stage the business became incorporated.
As with all successful businesses the success depended on more than one factor, it was the team that provided all the aspects which were needed from the traditional knowledge of Trifari to the selling skills of Fishel. In 1930 the mix was enriched even more when Alfred Philippe joined them as a designer and quickly rose to the position of head designer.
They were fortunate or discriminating enough to have many other very special designers work for them over the lifetime of the firm, but even this wasn’t enough to enable the firm to continue during the 1970s when many established costume jewellery firms were forced to close. Trifari didn’t close but the name was sold to Hallmark in 1975, and they moved through the hands of two other firms before being bought by the Liz Claibourne group in 2000. New Trifari jewellery is still on sale today but vintage enthusiasts find the quality disappointing.
One of the special things about Trifari is that since 1937 when they settled on the use of the Trifari name as their trademark they marked every single piece they made. They are the only major firm who did so as far as we know.
They used this fact as one of their marketing strategies and were very active in protecting their designs from copying. It was a case of theirs against such copying which was instrumental in the jewellery trade changing from the use of patents to provide protection to relying on the law of copyright instead.
This happened in 1955 and after that date their pieces bore the copyright symbol.
Prior to 1937 they used the mark kTf, standing for Kraussman TRIFARI and Fishel. (It was the habit at that time to use the ‘senior’ partner’s name in the middle.) During this period not all of their pieces were marked so you can find unmarked kTf.
But remember ALL Trifari trademark pieces were originally marked, so the only unmarked pieces of Trifari you will find now are pieces which have been changed, for example a bracelet clasp has been replaced. At one time the necklaces were mainly marked by the addition of a metal tag in the form of a stylised T, some owners didn’t like these tags and had them removed.
More information about Trifari marks, necklace tags and the dates at which they were used can be found on Dotty Stringfield’s IllusionJewels reference site RCJ
Trifari patents can be seen on Jim Katz’s Jewelry Patents site.
More detailed information on Trifari Jewellery is available at the following places.