Tiffany & Co.
Tiffany & Co. is one jewelry firm that really needs no introduction. Tiffany’s flagship store is located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan, New York City since 1940. The polished granite exterior is well known for its tiny window displays, and a 128.54 carats Fancy Yellow Tiffany Diamond usually is on display the store. Begun as a stationary and novelty shop, the firm now known as Tiffany & Co. is synonymous with quality and excellence in American silver and jewelry. With schoolmate John B. Young, Charles Louis Tiffany opened Tiffany & Young on September 18, 1837. The fancy goods emporium at 259 Broadway in New York City marked every article with a non-negotiable price, a revolutionary act at a time when bartering for goods was common practice. First day profits are a meager $4.98. The shop began to use a distinctive shade of blue for all its boxes, packaging, catalogues, advertising and brochures, the same color that today symbolizes the quality and craftsmanship of the Tiffany brand. Soon Tiffany's tireless search for one-of-a-kind objects charmed and fascinated the wealthy of New York. In 1845 Tiffany & Young published the nation’s first retail catalogue, which the company continues to publish to this day. After Young retired in 1853, the firm was renamed Tiffany & Co. Tiffany moved the store to a Fifth Avenue location and had a nine-foot bronze coated statue of mythical figure Atlas carved by H.F. Metzier and supporting a clock hung over the entrance, an iconic symbol still in place today. In the coming years the firm also established branches in Paris and London.
Tiffany began selling classic silver designs, created by John c. Moore, the firm’s exclusive silver designer after 1851. The firm won the highly coveted Award of Merit at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867. This was the first time an American company had been recognized by a European jury. Soon Tiffany and Company's list of customers included the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Leopold, and the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia. In 1883 the firm was designated jeweler to Queen Victoria, and within a year similar appointments followed from the Czar and Czarina, the Emporer of Austria, the kings of Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Rumania, the Khedive of Egypt, and the Shah of Persia. As the firm’s reputation for quality jewelry rose they gained many important commissions, including a Tiffany seed-pearl jewelry suite designed for Lincoln’s inauguration and given by the President to Mary Todd Lincoln in 1861.
In 1878 Tiffany & Co. purchased the Tiffany Diamond, one of the world’s largest and finest fancy yellow diamonds. The firm hires Dr. George Frederick Kunz, the first gemologist to be hired by a jeweler, to oversee the cutting of the stone. In 1886 the Company introduced the famous “Tiffany Setting” for engagement rings. The 6-prong diamond solitaire ring maximizes the beauty of the stone by raising it up from the band and into the light. In 1883 and again in 1887 Tiffany and Company purchased several auction lots of French crown jewels, and for years the firm's annual diamond sales totaled more than $6 million. Sales of pearls, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires accounted for at least that much more. This was the "Gilded Age" in America, and Tiffany and Company both encouraged and helped enable the rich to showcase their wealth. The press dubbed Charles Lewis Tiffany “the King of Diamonds” and the firm establishes itself as a world leader in fine jewelry. Tiffany designs graced women from the finest families: the Astors, the Vanderbilts, the Morgans. Celebrities from the theater, sports and ultimately European royalty and Hollywood stars began to prize Tiffany diamond designs.
Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of Charles and a famous Decorative Artist in his own right, joined Tiffany & Co. in 1902 and established the “Tiffany Art Jewelry” department to manufacture his innovative jewelry and enamel designs. Charles Lewis Tiffany died that year, leaving his son to become the firm’s first Artistic Director. Charles Lewis Tiffany left a company valued at over $2million and recognized as the most prominent of North American jewelers. He was also one of the founders of the New York Society of Fine Arts, a patron of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts and had been made a chevalier of the Legion of Honour.
The firm continued on under former vice president Charles T. Cook and in 1907 with the help of the firm’s chief gemologist George Kunz, the international standard for measuring gem weight using metric carats was established. Tiffany was also the first American company to use the 925/1000 sterling standard, later adopted as the United States Sterling Standard. The company continued to set standards in the United States and internationally, in 1926 Tiffany’s standard of purity for platinum became the National Standard.
Throughout the 20th Century Tiffany & Co. continued to prosper and create dazzling, unique, artistic pieces. The Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces created by the firm are highly sought after and can be found on display in many Museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In 1955 Walter Hoving took over leadership of the company and appointed as the firm’s signature designer, Jean Schlumberger. Recently the Museum of Arts and Design at Columbus Circle in New York City announced the formation of a new study center for contemporary jewelry. "We are pleased to have funded the creation of The Tiffany & Co. Foundation Jewelry Gallery, which embodies the Foundation's mission to enhance the appreciation of jewelry as an art form," said Fernanda M. Kellogg, president of The Tiffany & Co. Foundation. "Through an innovative program of exhibitions and by establishing the gallery as a research center, we hope to support the museum's efforts to educate and inspire both emerging artists and all those who have an interest in jewelry."