Jewellery

Tiffany & Co.'s Brilliant History

In its nearly 200-year history, Tiffany & Co. has grown to become the quintessential American jeweller with a worldwide reputation for glamour and style. Below, we look back at pivotal moments in Tiffany’s rich and prosperous history.

1830s and 40s

Founded in 1838 by Charles Lewis Tiffany (1812–1902) and his partner, J. B Young, as Tiffany & Young, a “fancy goods” store on Broadway in New York. Success was swift and sure, and another partner, Ellis, joined in 1841. In the 1940s, Charles Lewis Tiffany introduced the now iconic signature colour blue.

Charles Lewis Tiffany
Charles Lewis Tiffany. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

1853

Charles Lewis Tiffany took sole control in of the company in 1853 when the business was renamed Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany Yellow Diamond. Mounted in a necklace of white diamonds.  On display at the Fifth Avenue store. Tiffany's, New York City
The Tiffany Yellow Diamond. Alamy Stock Photo.

1870s

In 1870, the business moved to a palatial store in Union Square, and flourished through the 1870s, becoming the destination for New York’s fashionable and wealthy elite. Developing its own design identity, Tiffany was known for Japonesque-style silverware and for diamond jewellery: Charles Tiffany became the “King of Diamonds.”

In 1878, the company purchased the Tiffany diamond, an immense canary yellow stone from the new South African deposits. Once cut, the diamond weighed 128.54 carats.

1880s

In 1886, the Tiffany setting for diamond solitaire rings was introduced. Tiffany won numerous awards at international exhibitions: in Paris, in 1889, the naturalistic jewels designed by Paulding Farnham, later director of jewellery, showcased American themes and used materials, gemstones and pearls that were sourced by George Frederick Kunz, Tiffany’s celebrated chief gemologist.

A diamond ring by Tiffany & Co. sold for $1,155,000 at Sotheby's in April 2018.

1900s

On his father’s death in 1902, Louis Comfort Tiffany took over the reins, becoming Tiffany’s first design director.

1920s & 30s

The company’s American aesthetic blossomed through the Art Deco years of the 1920s and 30s, evolving into the late 30s and 40s Retro or cocktail style, which triumphed at the 1939 World’s Fair.

Tiffany and Co, flagship store, 5th Avenue, New York, USA.
Tiffany and Co.'s flagship store on 5th Avenue in New York. Bailey-Cooper Photography / Alamy Stock Photo.

1940

Tiffany & Co moved to its current global flagship store on Fifth Avenue, forever associated with Audrey Hepburn, as Holly Golightly, in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961).

1950s

In 1956, Chairman Walter Hoving invited the extraordinarily talented designer-jeweller, Jean Schlumberger, to open his own salon in the store, the first of a series of named designers.

Paloma Picasso Introduces Her Jewelry Collection
Paloma Picasso introducing her collection in 1980. Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images.

1970s & 80s

Introduced by design director John Loring, whose eye and vision shaped Tiffany's style in the late 20th century, jewellery designers Elsa Peretti and Paloma Picasso joined in 1974 and 1980, respectively.

Today

Reed Krakoff occupies the newly-created role of Artistic Director of Tiffany & Co.

Lead image photo by Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Vivienne Becker is a jewellery historian and a contributing editor of the Financial Times’s How to Spend It.

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