Gustavo Trifari emigrated from Italy to the U.S. in 1904 and founded Trifari NYC in 1910 after being a partner and jewelry designer with his uncle in Trifari & Trifari for several years. Gustavo’s grandfather Luigi Trifari, a goldsmith, had a small workshop in Naples, Italy in the mid 1800s producing fine jewelry where Gustavo, working in his workshop, learned the jewelry trade.
In 1917, Leo Krussman joined the Trifari Company as a sales director and later became a partner, leading to the forming of the Trifari and Krussman Company. A third partner, Carl Fishel, an experienced and well known salesman also became a partner in the firm, in the early 1920s. The company again changed its name to Trifari, Krussman & Fishel.
Trifari was considered one of the largest and best known producers of costume jewelry. It started producing hair ornaments, buckles, and bar pins in silver and base metals set with rhinestones and later manufactured, a broad range of costume jewelry creating superb designs and workmanship at different price levels. The Trifari jewelry produced had a distinctive look, resembling fine jewelry, which can easily be recognized by collectors. Much of this is due to the work of a great designer, Alfred Philippe, who worked and designed jewelry for Trifari, for approximately 38years, from 1930 to 1968, using high quality imported Swarovski rhinestones that were hand-set in the jewelry piece. Philippe worked as a designer of fine jewelry for Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, and brought to Trifari many imaginative ideas. He is largely responsible for the creation and development of Trifari's distinctive and classic look. There were also other well-known designers who joined Trifari: Jean Paris (1958 - 1965), Andre Boeuf (1967 - 1979), who had worked for Cartier, and Diane Love (1971-1974) who designed the company's modern and contemporary jewelry in the early 1970s. Up until the 1960s, Trifari lead the world in the industry of costume jewelry producing the highest quality and styles from imaginative sterling vermeil figurals of the 1940's to its classic gold and silver-tone jewelry of today. The Trifari figurals, retro florals, and jelly-bellies from the 1930s and 1940s are sought after today by collectors. Mark: "TFK" 1917, "Trifari with a crown above the T" 1930s, "Trifari, Krussman, Fishel", "Trifari with a crown and copyright symbol", and "Diane". The Trifari figurals, retro florals, and jelly-bellies from the 1930's and 1940's continue to be in high demand by collectors. The Trifari Company was purchased by Hallmark in the late 1970s, Crystal Grands Jewelry Corp. 1988, Chase Capital Partners, Lattice Holding Division of the Monet Group 1994, and Liz Claiborne in July 2000 with production moved out of the U.S.
A Carl Fishel, Gustavo Trifari, and Leo Krussman had been employed by Rice & Hockster, a maker of women's shoe buckles and hair ornaments and all three had seen service in World War I, 1917-1919. The company manufactured women's high top shoe buckles and bobbed hair ornaments. Paris was the fashion capital of the world and had dictated that women keep their hair long and held in place by lovely celluloid and rhinestones combs and wear high buckle shoes but styles were changing. After Carl Fishel's vacation trip to Paris, France in 1921, and with the trend of French women's styles changing to no longer bobbing their hair and no longer wearing high top shoes, and stagnant in sales, a change of product line was necessary. Now, with the popularity of the gold chain necklace (rope), the company in 1921 changed its product line producing the gold chain necklace (rope) that was inspired by Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. The company opened its own jewelry business of Trifari, Krussman and Fishel (Head of Sales) in 1925.
Trifari created designs for Broadway, Hollywood, First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, and movie stars. The company became part of the Monet group in 1994, which was acquired by Liz Claiborne in 2000, and is still being produced today.