Founded by Charles Louis Tiffany and his partner John B. Young in 1837, the very modest establishment in New York was called Tiffany & Young, a tiny store stocked with stationery, Chinese bric-a-brac, pottery, umbrellas, and desks.
At the newly founded ‘Tiffany Emporium’ at 259 Broadway, the fashionable ladies, dressed in silks and satins and wearing be-ribboned 19th century bonnets, were enchanted to discover a newly emerging ‘American Style’ which departed from the European design aesthetic, which had been rooted in religious and ceremonial patterns and the ‘mannered opulence’ of the Victorian era.
The young Tiffany entrepreneurs drew inspiration from the natural world, interpreting it into exquisite patterns of simplicity and clarity, which became the hallmarks of Tiffany design in silver hollow-ware and flatware and later in jewelry.
Tiffany’s Japanesque silver achieved international recognition at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867, and was the first American company to employ the 925/1000 standard of silver purity. The efforts of Charles Lewis Tiffany led to the adoption of this ratio by the United States Congress as the American Sterling silver standard.
In 1878 Tiffany acquired one of the world?s finest and largest fancy yellow diamonds from the Kimberly mines in South Africa which, pursuant to the advice of George Frederick Kunz, the eminent Victorian gemologist, was cut from 287.42 carats to 128.54cts with 82 facets (as opposed to 58 facets of most brilliant-cut diamonds) which gave the stone its legendary fire and brilliance. Referred to as ‘the Tiffany Diamond’ the stone became a well-known exemplar of Tiffany’s craftsmanship.
In 1886 Tiffany introduced the six-pronged setting for diamond solitaires, which was the innovative placing of the solitaire diamond in a vaulted position enhancing the stone?s light refraction and maximizing its brilliance. The ‘Tiffany Setting’ as it was referred to, continues to be one of the most popular styles in the late 19th century.
With the decease of Charles Lewis Tiffany in 1902, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the founder’s son, was appointed as Tiffany’s Director of Design, emerging as a leader in Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts Movements. A talented artist and painter par excellence, Louis comfort created a fascinating range of designs from leaded glass to enameled and painted jewels inspired by American plants and flowers.
Tiffany’s 1889 Paris Fair exhibit was heralded as an ‘extraordinary collection of jewels ever produced by an American jewelry house?. The unprecedented commendations bestowed upon the ‘American Jewelry House’ led to Tiffany’s appointment as Imperial Jeweler to the crowned heads of Europe, as well as the Ottoman Emperor and the Czar Czarina of Russia.
As the 20th century progressed, Tiffany designs captured the spirit of the times: The extravagance of the 1920’s and the glamorous geometrically inspired Art Deco pieces; the ?modernism? of the 1930’s; the aerodynamic age of the 1940?s and 1950?s and their bold, cocktail style creations; the fascinating nature inspired works of Tiffany’s Jean Schlumberger and Elsa Peretti in the 1960?s? Throughout all these eras, Tiffany has broken new grounds with exceptional designs which emerged and continue today as ‘American Style’.
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