The Glittering Legacy of Tiffany & Co: Undimmed For 184 years


I’m just crazy about Tiffany’s,” cooed Audrey Hepburn in her iconic role as Holly Golightly in the 1961 Hollywood classic Breakfast At Tiffany’s. The everyday luxury brand can always be depended on to signal where women are at and connect with our cultural moment. Remember Blair’s Tiffany themed engagement party in Gossip Girl, where a bunch of cute robin-egg blue boxes tied up with pretty ribbons were being circulated? Or Charlotte’s engagement ring in Sex And The City, that Carrie later puts to good use to pay off the deposit on her New York apartment!

The brand’s sunny personality that’s expressed through its physical touch points, are today recognisable as the jewellery itself. When one thinks of Tiffany, one pictures a tasteful window display, a sprawling facade exuding sunny playfulness. Even the Tiffany Blue (yes, the colour is trademarked!) shopping bag is a guaranteed conversation starter, instantly inviting attention. And add to that the easy allure of the jewellery pieces themselves, with enough pizzazz to animate just about any outfit under the sun. With the label clocking 184 years of being in the business of glamour, celebrity, luxury and style, we revisit where it all began.


The American Spirit 

In 1837, 25-year-old Charles Lewis Tiffany and John B. Young, opened a stationery and fancy goods store with a $1,000 advance from Tiffany’s father in New York, US. And with it, ushered in an era of casual American style that was a refreshing departure from the Victorian era’s maximalism. Tiffany introduced The Tiffany & Co. Blue Book (first published in 1845), which became one of the first direct-mail catalogues in the US to feature a diverse panoply of merchandise, from jewellery and accessories to collectibles for the home. Over time, it evolved into a showcase of its precious jewellery lines.

In 1878, the house acquired one of the world’s largest and finest fancy yellow diamonds sourced from the Kimberley diamond mines in South Africa. Under the aegis of eminent gemologist, Dr George Frederick Kunz, the diamond was cut from its original 287.42 carats down to 128.54 carats with an unprecedented 82 facets, which lent the stone its epochal fire and exceptional brilliance. Named the Tiffany Diamond, the stone became a metaphor for the brand’s distinctive sophistication.

Put A Ring On It

When one pictures a romantic proposal, Tiffany’s sparkling engagement ring inadvertently features at the centre of the proceedings. In 1886, the design house unveiled this charming piece of jewellery, thus altering the course of the luxury market. A reflection of real craftsmanship, the ring brings together qualities of precision and flair. Previously, diamond rings were set in bezels. However, this masterpiece was designed to underscore the brilliant-cut diamonds by lifting the stone off the band into the light. This never-seen-before design came to be known as the Tiffany® Setting. After making its sensational debut, the avant-garde Setting was so sought-after that the luxury house had to release statements warning customers against counterfeits.

As the 20th century progressed, Tiffany’s designs reflected the spirit of the times, from the exuberant and roaring 1920s, to the modernist 1930s, and the aerodynamic age of the 1940s and 1950s. Several generations of celebrities have declared their love for Tiffany’s, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Vreeland who would often pick jewellery from the brand for their red carpet and social outings.

A New Era 

There are collections and then there are masterpieces, which become luminous leitmotifs making their presence felt season after season, with a new twist. The Tiffany T collection, introduced in 2014 has become an icon for a new era incorporating the ‘T’ motif emblematic of the luxury house today. A ménage à trois of 18k rose, yellow and white gold, there are designs with striking pavé diamonds, pieces set with polished stones—tiger’s eye, turquoise, pink opal and black onyx and the lustrous mother-of-pearl—all presenting their own evocative take on the seminal motif. Also, worth mentioning is Tiffany T1, which infuses the motif with strength, courage and optimism. Echoing the first Tiffany T bracelet, Tiffany T1 distills the essence from the icon.

An endless cycle of rebirth, reinvention and reinterpretation of the label’s core designs have ensured that every offering is of-the-moment. Rooted in its rich past yet delightfully modern, sounds like an ingenious design recipe—much like the recently unveiled Atlas® collection, which was first launched 26 years ago. Tiffany put a bold new spin on it with an updated line, AtlasX. It derives inspiration from the Roman numerals on the clock at the brand’s Fifth Avenue flagship store. Now that’s some larger-than-life inspiration.

Luxury For Good 

Throughout the company’s history, Tiffany & Co.’s designers have drawn on the natural world for inspiration. Nature is also the source of the precious metals and gemstones necessary for fashioning the jewellery. The house was an early proponent of obtaining these materials in ways that are socially and environmentally responsible, setting the standard for sustainable luxury.

Since 2017 100 per cent profits from the Tiffany Save the Wild collection go to the Wildlife Conservation Network, a US-based non-profit that works to protect endangered wildlife. The house has donated over USD 8 million to date towards the cause. With a solid sustainability ethos, Tiffany & Co. has only strengthened its position as the symbol of everyday luxury and a shining beacon of timeless style for the years to come.

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