A while ago we featured a post about the history of “costume” jewellery, as promised we will now feature a few of the “names” from the costume jewellery era of the 20th century. There has been an upsurge of interest in all things Vintage in the last few years and jewellery is no exception. Much of the jewellery created during this period were of good production quality and design and have survived the test of time to become a big collectors area, they represent a slice of period life at a relatively affordable price when compared to jewels made from precious metals.
Signed jewellery are the most sort after examples of costume jewellery, as they can be researched and often dated to within a few years as a result of the marks displayed, prices depend on the name, dates, rarity, and materials used. Below we will look at just a few of the many collectable costume jewellery manufacturers.
A highly successful and probably the best known costume jewellery designer whose pieces are still highly collectable today, they have designed jewellery that have been worn by countless high profile figures from Mamie Eisenhower to Madonna.
Gustavo Trifari was born in Naples in 1883, he trained as a goldsmith under his grandfather. He emigrated from Italy to New York and worked with his uncle making costume jewellery. In 1910 they set up Trifari & Trifari, but Gustavo went on to set up his own company Trifari in 1912.
The success of Trifari, and the reason for its collectability today, is often credited to the French designer Alfred Philippe, the company’s chief designer from 1930 until 1968. His use of invisible settings for stones, which he originally developed for Van clef and Arpels, added a level of craftsmanship and technique that had not previously been seen in costume jewellery.
Amongst Philippe’s many designs were the Trifari crown pins from the late 1930s to 1950s. The crowns were so popular that Trifari started to use a crown in its mark in about 1937. Authentic Trifari jewellery is typically marked with ‘jewels by Triafai’, ‘TKF’ (for Trifari, Krussman & Fishel) or ‘Trifari’ depending when it was made. Pieces made after 1952 bear the copyright symbol, as this is when the US government allowed jewellery designs to be protected by copyright.
Trifari Jelly Belly pins of seals, poodles, roosters, and other animal’s ‘belly’ consists of a solid Lucite ‘pearl’ with settings of sterling silver or gold plate. Jelly Belly’s are highly collectable and command a high price especially poodles – which are rare.
The company was sold to the Hallmark Corporation in 1975 and subsequently to Liz Claiborne Inc. in 2000.
Below is a Trifari brooch, with the visible mark – made after the copyright symbol was added in 1952.
Only recently have vintage Lisner pieces become appreciated and collectable, they still have relatively low prices and the company’s cheaply made plastic leaves and baubles have a beauty of their own.
For nearly 30 years after it was founded in 1904, Lisner imported and sold Elsa Schiaparelli’s Parisian jewellery in the United States. In the 1930s the company finally started selling its own designs that employed Dupont’s new coloured acrylic plastic called Lucite, as well as clear and coloured rhinestones, chrome, plated and black japanned metal. The pieces produced were not of the calibre of some other designers but they reflected the design trends led by the high-end brands.
The company used “Lisner” mark in block capitals on its own pieces for the first time in 1935. In 1938 the “Lisner” mark in script was introduced. From 1959, “Lisner” in block capitals with an elongated “L”, was used. However some dies and molds were used later so the mark is not always a reliable indicator of the date in this case. The company ended production in 1979.
Below is an example of a necklace and earrings set, the marks visible including block lettering and the copyright symbol.
Coro & Corocraft
Coro, a partnership between Emanuel Cohn (the “Co”) and Gerald Rosenberg (the “ro”) began producing jewellery in New York in 1901 and continued through to the 1970s under the marks of Coro, Coro Craft (later Corocraft) and Vendome, amongst others. Although Vendome was the high end line, today some of the most collectable examples are Coro pieces.
The reason for much of its success was due to Adolph Katz, who became design director in 1924, and Gene Verri, who designed for Coro from 1933 until 1963.
Amongst the most collectable vintage Coro pieces today are the Coro Duettes from 1931 to the 1950s. The Duettes utilized a frame based on one designed by Cartier in 1927. Like the Cartier frame the Coro version had two openings in it, one for each pin which could be attached to the frame and worn together or separately.
Corocraft was the next step up in quality and price from Coro, under this brand they produced a line of Jelly Belly pins, that were similar to the those made by Trifari right down to the Lucite “belly”. Were Coro used metal frames Corocraft pins and bracelets were often made in sterling silver or gold plating. Vendome, was introduced in 1944 and replaced Corocraft in 1953 as the top of the Coro line.
The company ceased trading in the US in 1979, but Coro Inc. Continued production in Canada until the mid-1990s.
Monocraft as it began, now known as Monet, was founded by brothers Jay and Michael Chernow , in 1929 in Providence, Rhode Island. The company started making metal monograms and then Art Deco style purse adornments progressing onto making costume jewellery after the Chernows hired designer Edmond Mario Granville in 1934. Edmond had a background in fine jewellery from working at Cartier. He remained sole designer until the late 1950s and was executive designer until his death in 1969. Producing simple gold and silver-tone designs, they developed a friction ear clip which made its earrings more comfortable to wear. From 1981, Monet produced jewellery for Yves Saint Laurent. It has continued to adapt to trends and changing fashions and remains successful to the present day.
Today, Monet is particularly prized by collectors for its quality, thanks to its triple-plating. It is not unusual for Monet pieces to last for decades without showing signs of wear to the finish, and as most of the jewellery is name marked, they will continue to be collectable.
So if you want to start buying vintage costume jewellery there are specialists shops and online stores, but I find it’s more fun having a look around markets and car boot fairs, where you can often find quality pieces at affordable prices. As with most things there are some fakes of the big names around, so beware, but if you buy what you like and at an affordable price, maybe you will end up with a fascinating piece of jewellery that could last another 60 years or more!