Posted on April 20 2020
Tiffany & Co. reigns as America’s most iconic jewelry brand, recognized around the world for their luxury jewelry and Tiffany robins egg blue branding. Many of you will know their most iconic designs, but did you also know that they started out as a stationery business? Let’s take a look at what helped craft this iconic company into what it is today!
A Brief History
The original “Tiffany’s” was created in 1837 by Charles Lewis Tiffany and John B. Young in Brooklyn Connecticut, and at the time it was called “Tiffany, Young and Ellis”. It wouldn’t move on to be called “Tiffany & Co.” until 1853 when Charles took over sole control of the company. It started out as a stationery and fancy goods emporium before moving their focus to the jewelry market. Although their focus had shifted, they continued to serve multiple purposes. In 1862, Tiffany actually supplied the Union Army with swords, flags and surgical implements. They also designed the Great Seal of the United States, which appears on the one-dollar bill to this day. Talk about a multi-faceted company!
In 1878, Charles purchased what is now referred to as the “Tiffany Diamond”, a 287.42 carat rough fancy yellow diamond which came from the Kimberly Diamond Mines in South Africa. It is viewed as one of the finest gemstones in the world to date. The diamond was cut into a 128.54ct polished gem, with 82 facets to maximize its fire and sparkle. Today, this world-famous diamond is on permanent display at the Fifth Avenue flagship store, where it attracts more than 300 visitors every day! The diamond would later be worn by Audrey Hepburn to help promote “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in 1961. Have you seen the iconic film? In 1887, Charles also purchased the French crown jewels, which earned him the nickname “King of Diamonds”.
After Charles’ death, his son Lewis Comfort Tiffany took over the company in 1902 and became the company's first design director. Being a massively influential figure in the Art Nouveau movement, Louis’ colorful, naturalistic aesthetic remains a major inspiration for Tiffany designers today.
Tiffany was also the first jewelry company to employ their own gemologists, and even had a hand in naming some newly discovered gemstones. Kunzite was discovered in 1903 and named after their chief gemologist Dr. George Frederick Kunz. In 1910, Morganite was introduced to the public and was named after one of the company’s key financers, J.P. Morgan.
One of the most iconic designs to ever come out of Tiffany & Co. is the quintessential "Tiffany Setting". The creation of this design in 1886 has helped shape how engagement rings look and feel to this very day. The six prong setting was engineered to be hidden under the stone, allowing the diamond to float above the band and really capture the light. This setting was revolutionary at the time, and has made a lasting impression on the jewelry industry world wide.
As a company, Tiffany has had some incredibly influential and world-renowned designers create collections for them. A prime example is Jean Schlumberger who joined the company in 1956 and created a collection featuring whimsical colors and was inspired by nature and the ocean. His unique designs are still highly coveted to this day!
Another incredibly iconic design was The Return to Tiffany™ key ring, which debuted in 1969. Each key ring sold was assigned a designated serial number and registered to the Tiffany flagship store on Fifth Avenue so it could be reunited with its owner! This design went on to inspire one of their best-selling and most iconic collections to date.
In 1974, Elsa Perretti joined Tiffany & Co. and revolutionized the jewelry industry with her highly sculptural aesthetic. Under her direction, sterling silver was brought into the foreground once more and used abundantly in her designs. Her ideology was to make a line of jewelry that could easily be dressed up, but also dressed down and worn on a day to day basis, while still being iconic and recognizable as a Tiffany product.
Paloma Picasso’s 1980’s collection is another that is instantly recognizable. Inspired by the graffiti commonly seen on New York city buildings during the 1970’s, her collection re-imagined graffiti in a chic designer way and her jewelry is still loved and coveted by the masses today.
More recently, in 2014 the Tiffany T collection was launched. The idea behind this collection was to capture the creativity, happiness, love and strength that Tiffany has always stood for in a striking and instantly recognizable design!
If you are looking to add a gorgeous brand name item to your jewelry collection, check out all of the Tiffany pieces we have available on 100 Ways!