Charles Lewis Tiffany
In 1837, New York became the proving ground for twenty-five-year-old Charles Lewis Tiffany and John B. Young, who opened a ï¿½stationery and fancy goodsï¿½ store with a $1,000 advance from Tiffany's father.
At Tiffany & Co. they discovered a newly emerging ï¿½American styleï¿½ that departed from the European design aesthetic, which was rooted in religious and ceremonial patterns and the Victorian eraï¿½s mannered opulence. The young entrepreneurs were inspired by the natural world, which they interpreted in exquisite patterns of simplicity, harmony and clarity. These became the hallmarks of Tiffany design, first in silver hollowware and flatware, and later in jewelry. Tiffany first achieved international recognition at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867. The company was awarded the grand prize for silver craftsmanship, the first time that an American design house had been so honored by a foreign jury. Tiffany was the first American company to employ the 925/1000 standard of silver purity. Largely through the efforts of Charles Lewis Tiffany, this ratio was adopted by the United States Congress as the American sterling silver standard.
By 1870 Tiffany & Co. had become America's premier purveyor of jewels and timepieces as well as luxury table, personal, and household accessories. At the turn of the 20th century the company had more than one thousand employees and branches in London, Paris, and Geneva.
In 1878 Tiffany acquired one of the world's largest and finest fancy yellow diamonds from the Kimberley diamond mines in South Africa. Under the guidance of Tiffany's eminent gemologist, Dr. George Frederick Kunz, the diamond was cut from 287.42 carats to 128.54 carats with 82 facets (most brilliant-cut diamonds have only 58), which gave the stone its legendary fire and brilliance. Designated the Tiffany Diamond, the stone became an exemplar of Tiffany craftsmanship.
In 1886 Tiffany introduced the engagement ring as we know it todayï¿½the Tiffanyï¿½ Settingï¿½ an innovation that lifts the diamond above the band with six platinum prongs, allowing a more complete return of light from the stone and maximizing its brilliance. Today the Tiffany Setting continues as one of the most popular engagement ring styles and shining symbol of the jewelerï¿½s diamond authority.
With the death of Charles Lewis Tiffany in 1902, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the founderï¿½s son, became Tiffanyï¿½s first Director of Design. An entire floor of Tiffany & Co. was devoted to merchandise crafted in the Tiffany Studios, Louis Comfort Tiffanyï¿½s atelier. His position as Americaï¿½s leading designer was well established by 1882, when President Chester Arthur invited him to redecorate the White House. By 1900 the younger Tiffany was a world leader in the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements. The famed artist created a remarkable range of designs, from technically brilliant leaded glass to colorful Tiffany favrile glass, and enameled and painterly jewels based on American plants and flowers.
As the twentieth century progressed, Tiffany designs captured the spirit of the times, from the extravagance of the 1920s to the modernism of the 1930s and the aerodynamic age of the 1940s and 1950s. Tiffany china set the stage for White House dinners and Tiffany jewels accented the elegant clothes of the worldï¿½s most glamorous women, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Babe Paley and Diana Vreeland. Very often world-renowned jeweler Jean Schlumberger created their jewelry. Hired in 1956 by then Tiffany chairman Walter Hoving, Schlumbergerï¿½s lavish, nature-inspired jewels remain the pride of Tiffany & Co.
Throughout Tiffanyï¿½s history, the United States and foreign governments have called upon the company to create special commissions. Among them are the Congressional Medal of Honor, the United Statesï¿½ highest military award; and the 1885 redesign of the Great Seal of the United States, which can be seen on official government documents as well as on the one-dollar bill.
Business and professional organizations have also called on Tiffany design expertise through Tiffany Business Sales. The most famous of these commissions is the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the National Football League Super Bowl Championship. Tiffany has had the distinction of creating this original and well-known design since the first Super Bowl in 1967.
The legendary style of Tiffany design is perhaps best represented by the annual Blue Book Collection, featuring Tiffanyï¿½s and the worldï¿½s most spectacular and glamorous jewels. Initially published in 1845, the Tiffany Blue Book was the first such catalogue to be distributed in the U.S. Todayï¿½s version showcases the elite of diamonds and colored gemstones in custom-designed settings, crafted with time-honored jewelry techniques and inspired by jewels in the Tiffany & Co. Archives.
Over the past two centuries, Tiffany has built an international reputation as a premier jeweler and the ultimate source of gifts for life's most cherished occasions. Whether it's a milestone in the life of a company or a family, or an individual's crowning achievement, Tiffany gifts wrapped in the signature Tiffany Blue Boxï¿½ symbolize the rich heritage and unparalleled reputation Tiffany & Co. has enjoyed as one of America's great institutions.