Tiffany & Co.
Tiffany & Co. (Founded 1837) 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. 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.