Tiffany & Co.'s glittering tale Featured

As the maison celebrates its 175th anniversary, we take a look at its fascinating story

by 05 September 2012

Who would have thought that the multinational empire of Tiffany & Co. began with a small loan? It was exactly $1,000 that the young Charles Lewis Tiffany borrowed from his father to set up his ‘stationery and fancy goods emporium’ with his friend John B. Young in New York City in 1837.

At its address, 259 Broadway, Tiffany soon became ‘the’ place to go. The small American company quickly attracted a crowd at home and overseas with its original designs, brimming with simplicity, harmony and clarity – three things that have become fundamental for the brand. Over the years the company received important commissions, which included swords during the American Civil War, the US Congressional Medal of Honor, the Great Seal featured in the US dollar bill, and a sterling silver bicycle as a gift from Sir Weetman Peason to his wife. Acting on a suggestion by the resourceful Mr. Tiffany, the US Congress adopted the 925/1000 standard of silver purity, pioneered by Tiffany & Co.

In 1878, Tiffany & Co. struck gold, in the shape of a golden-yellow coloured diamond. ‘The world’s largest and finest yellow diamond,’ as it was known, was purchased by Mr. Tiffany. Originally 287.42 carats, it was cut to 128.54 carats and 82 facets (24 facets more than standard brilliant-diamonds) and it became known around the globe as ‘the Tiffany Diamond.’ Much later, in 1961, it was perfectly fitted onto an extraordinary Ribbon Rosette necklace designed by Jean Schlumberger and worn by Audrey Hepburn for a promotional shoot for ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’ Today it is on display at the company’s Fifth Avenue shop. It’s also worth mentioning that most of Tiffany’s masterpieces are created in their workshop above this boutique.

The Tiffany Diamond was an important marketing operation. Another similar venture was the purchase of the French crown jewels in a very public event. However, these are not the real reasons why Tiffany became known as ‘the King of diamonds.’ In fact, the brand has long been famous for its rare yellow diamonds (there is only one such piece for every 10,000 diamonds) and for other exquisitely coloured gems such as lilac Kunzite or J.P. Morgan’s Morganite. In addition, Tiffany created what is now known as the Tiffany setting, in order to highlight the radiance of his gems. In this unique setting, commonly used for engagement rings, diamonds are lifted above the band to enable the stone to receive more light, so that its effect of inner dazzle is even greater. It’s no wonder that Franklin Roosevelt, and many other VIPs, turned to Tiffany for their engagement rings.

Such brilliant creations require an equally exquisite presentation. That's why in 1906 Tiffany & Co. introduced their iconic Tiffany Blue box for every purchase. According to the New York Sun, it was the “one thing in stock that you could not buy, for as much money as you may offer, he [Tiffany] will only give it to you.” The Tiffany Blue Box is famous around the globe for its power to ‘make hearts beat faster.’

Tiffany & Co. is not a brand to rest on its laurels, as glittering as they may be. This year the label presented a bright new metal – Rubedo, seen in the special 175th anniversary collection of the 1837 line. In the immortal words of Miss Holly Golightly “nothing bad can happen at Tiffany’s,” so why not head to the nearest boutique for a visit?