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American Decorative Arts
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Designer: Norman Bel Geddes, American, 1893–1958
Manufacturer: Trifari, American, founded 1925

“Leaping Fish” Lapel Pin

patented 1941, manufactured Fall 1944

Rhinestones, Lucite, and gold-colored plating on white metal

2 3/4 × 1 3/4 × 3/4 in. (6.985 × 4.445 × 1.905 cm)
Gift of José L. Miñán, B.A. 2006, J.D. 2009
With Austrian crystals in short supply during World War II, jewelry manufacturers sought out new materials to catch the eye of consumers. Patented by DuPont in 1937, Lucite was a lightweight, transparent, thermoplastic resin that came in a variety of colors. Its translucent shine leant an appealing opalescence and resembled the more costly moonstone. During World War II, Trifari converted some of their factories to produce Lucite windshields and turrets for fighter planes. Alfred Philippe, the company’s chief designer suggested that the staff cut the imperfect discards into small cabochons for costume jewelry. Trifari produced a line of “Jelly Bellies,” a menagerie of animals whose bodies were formed with these Lucite pieces. The jewelry debuted in the fall of 1943. The “Leaping Fish” lapel pin was designed and patented in 1941 by renowned industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes. Trifari added it to the “Jelly Bellies” line in the fall of 1944. In recent years, Trifari has reissued the pin; these new versions have blue rhinestones on the fish’s head.
Made in Providence, Rhode Island
On view
20th century

Sheila Bowser, Westimster, Maryland, by 2010; purchased by Jose Minan, New York, 2010


John Stuart Gordon et al., A Modern World: American Design from the Yale University Art Gallery, 1920–1950 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2011), 96, no. 54.

“Acquisitions,” https://artgallery.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Pub_Bull_acquisitions_2011.pdf (accessed March 1, 2012).

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.