Widely regarded as the “Diamond Authority,” and today’s trusted location for luxury gift-giving, Tiffany & Co. is responsible for a lot of firsts for America. The brand would change standards and traditions for years to come. The brand has a rich history of impacting both the jewelry and design worlds, inspiring tastemakers today with over 200 stores worldwide.
Charles Lewis Tiffany and John B. Young first established their New York City Stationary and gift shop in 1837, with a small loan from Charles’ father of only $1000. They deemed it a “Stationery and Fancy Goods Emporium,” selling stationary, glassware, porcelain, cutlery and clocks. In 1841 the shop began to expand, and would specialize in Bohemian glass and porcelain. The two quickly gained a lot of prestige for their work, often credited as selling the finest quality goods.
Eventually the two would enter the world of jewelry manufacturing. Their style was simple, clean and sophisticated, a departure from the classic Victorian style, which boasted a lavish and opulent appearance. By 1850, the company’s continued expansion prompted a name change to Tiffany & Co., the brand we know and love today. They opened branches in London and Paris and relocated their New York City location to 5th Avenue.
The Atlas clock was installed above the 5th Avenue location in 1853 to accompany the Art Deco style of the building. The clock itself is represented as the world upon the shoulders of Atlas. It was credited as being the most accurate clock in New York City and the term “New York minute” is a reference to its exactness. People all over New York would set their watches to match, proof that Charles Tiffany had established himself as a distinguished watchmaker. In 1873 he opened an 80,000 sq ft. factory in Geneva, Switzerland, combining his simple clean American style with luxury Swiss craftsmanship.
Charles Tiffany was known for his silver work as well. During the 1867 World Fair in Paris, Tiffany & Co. was prized with the gold medal for silver craftsmanship and was the first American company to apply the British Standard of metal work, using 92% pure metal. Tiffany fought to make this the norm in America, even working to enact a Federal Law that requires a 925/1000 standard for items to be eligible to be marked “sterling silver.” Tiffany & Co. silverware and silver products are all authenticated with a Tiffany & Co. stamp and date, indicating the time period.
Another of the brand’s celebrated commodities is their extremely detailed and finely crafted lamps. The very first Tiffany’s lamp was displayed in 1893, designed by one of their master designers, Clara Driscoll. The lamp shades are made of glass and the base is typically made of brass. In some rare cases, the base is either enameled or mosaic. These finely crafted pieces of home decor are all made by hand, in an arduous process with a painstaking attention to detail, carefully selecting each piece of glass from thousands of sheets. The bases and lamp shades are interchangeable. The Pondi Lamp, pictured below, was made in the early 20th century and originally retailed for $400. In December of 2018 it sold for $3,372,500.
Although Tiffany & Co. is known for it’s silverware and handmade lamps, they are best known for their jewelry, pairing timeless luxury design with the hue of their infamous Tiffany Blue. In 1845, the first Tiffany Blue Book was published. It was the first product catalog to be distributed in the United States. The cover was embellished with what is now the iconic Tiffany Blue®. They copyrighted the color and use it for all their advertising and branding. Boxes, shopping bags and catalogs would all be draped in the color. The hue was meant to symbolize the importance of the experience and create a unique source of recognition between the consumer and the brand. Receiving a light blue turquoise box signified a moment of joy and anticipation. The color added significant depth to the shopping experience. One could oftentimes expect an engagement ring in the light blue box. In 1886 Tiffany introduced the Tiffany setting. The concept was to lift the diamond high off the finger, allowing the light to shine and the diamond to glimmer.
The brand was at the forefront of Jewelry making and acquiring precious gems. The most noted purchase being the French Crown Jewels and the famous yellow Tiffany Diamond. The Tiffany Diamond is the world’s largest yellow diamond. The 287.42 carat stone was cut to 128.54 carats with 82 facets by gemologist Dr. George Frederick Kunz. This rare gem cost $18,000 and garnered Charles Tiffany the title “King of Diamonds.” It was only worn by only 3 people, the first being Mary Whitehouse, who wore the diamond for the Tiffany ball in 1957.
Audry Hepburn was the second to wear the diamond in the heavily acclaimed romantic comedy, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” In 1961 she was adorned with this gem, set in a ribbon style necklace sparkling with white diamonds for the promotion of the film. The latest public figure to wear the diamond was singer/songwriter, Lady Gaga, during her 2019 Oscar debut.
Whether it be silverware, handmade lamps, or fine Jewelry, if it has the Tiffany & Co. branding, it’s sure to stand out. What was once a stationary gift shop is today an international brand. Shop our gallery’s selection of Tiffany & Co. goods in both the “Decoration” and “Jewelry” sections of our website!