In 1837, Charles Tiffany set up shop with his friend John B. Young selling “stationary and fancy goods”. Today his name is synonymous with American style and luxury and Tiffany jewelry is worn by the world’s most elegant women.
Within a few years they were selling jewelry, predominantly gold pieces imported from Europe but also some diamonds. Their first catalogue was printed in 1845, and advertised a wide range of goods which were available via mail order, a concept previously unknown in America.
Exhibiting at World Fairs exposed Tiffany & Co. to an ever increasingly wide audience and they won many awards for both their silver ware and jewelry. Charles Tiffany was able to acquire more important stones. One of his most splendid purchases came in 1878 when he bought a 287.42ct canary yellow diamond discovered in South Africa; it was cut in Paris into a stunning 128.54ct cushion shaped gem christened the Tiffany Diamond which the company still owns today. In 1886, he introduced a new style of setting for solitaire diamond rings called the ‘Tiffany Setting’. The weight of metal in earlier styles had been removed and the diamond lifted up away from the shank and held in elongated claws, this allowed more light into the stone thereby creating more life and sparkle. Several years later, he cemented his reputation as ‘the Diamond King’ when he outbid his competitors to take home a total of 24 lots from the auction of the French Crown Jewels, Many of the gems sold quickly in their original settings but some were remounted and displayed two years later at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle including a beautiful 25ct diamond set to the centre of a necklace.
When Charles Tiffany died in 1902, his son Louis Comfort Tiffany took the reigns as Art Director. His interest in art permeated his designs which were often kaleidoscopic in colour and combined a wide variety of gemstones with yellow gold, enamel and glass. He was acknowledged as a world leader of the Art Nouveau movement, and in 1907 Tiffany & Co. opened a dedicated ‘Art Jewelry’ department for the manufacture and sale of his work including lamps, pottery, jewellery and glassware.
The Parisian jewellery designer Jean Schlumberger joined Tiffany & Co. in 1956 and immediately caught the attention of jewellery connoisseurs with his bold, three dimensional pieces inspired by the natural world. Favoured by stylish women such as Elizabeth Taylor, Babe Paley and Jackie Kennedy his creations were vibrant, joyful and full of life. His iconic ‘Bird on a Rock’ brooches and brightly coloured paillonné enamel bangles are perfect examples of his design ethos and the attention to detail which, coupled with Tiffany craftsmanship, resulted in some of the periods most fabulous jewels. His design for the Ribbon Rosette necklace set with the Tiffany Diamond received international acclaim when it was worn by Audrey Hepburn whilst she promoted the 1961 film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’.
Since then the company has welcomed many other designers with two of the most significant being Elsa Peretti in 1974 who created organic, sensual forms and championed the use of silver as well as gold and Paloma Picasso in 1980 whose bold vibrant designs provided a colourful contrast to classic Tiffany jewels.