Tiffany & Co - Defining diamond design — Magazine — The Galleria Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi
 
Tiffany & Co - Defining diamond design
Tiffany & Co - Defining diamond design
Women's style | July 16, 2018

Tiffany & Co - Defining diamond design

Since 1837, when it first opened in New York, Tiffany & Co. has set new standards in jewellery design and changed the way people buy gemstones. With the jeweller having opened its latest boutique at The Galleria on Al Maryah Island this summer, we take a look at the history of the iconic brand behind the blue box.

1837

In 1837, the 25-year-old Charles Lewis Tiffany and partner John B Young opened a stationery and fancy goods store in central New York, with a US$1,000 advance from Tiffany’s father. In this shop the pair introduced a new ‘American’ style of jewellery, far removed from the restrictive Victorian European style, and inspired by the natural world, interpreted in patterns of simplicity, harmony and clarity, which quickly became hallmarks of Tiffany design.

REIGN OF DIAMONDS

It was in 1887 that Charles Tiffany purchased one-third of the Diamants De La Couronne - The French Crown Jewels.

Despite their obvious exorbitance, Tiffany had customers lined up, such as Mrs Joseph Pulitzer, who added the Empress Eugenie’s necklace to her personal collection.

The Blue Book

From the store on Lower Broadway, the company grew in reputation and success, but Tiffany was ambitious for more. In 1845, he introduced the very first edition of the now legendary Tiffany Blue Book, an annual publication showcasing the world’s most spectacular jewels. Initially a collection of fine line drawings, gathered in a navy cover, Tiffany designed the Blue Book as a personal communication from the house, reaching out to his exclusive clientele. His busy customers could, at their leisure, pore over an utterly elegant picture book, filled with breath-taking, one-of-a-kind jewels, which he believed would entice them to come to the store.

Early Blue Books included stones from the French and Spanish Crown Jewels, reset in opulent Tiffany designs, as well as an astonishing array of unique pieces that won gold medals at the great world’s fairs of the late 19th century. Later Blue Books, now filled with gorgeous glossy photos and wrapped in a cover of the distinctive Tiffany blue, featured diamonds from the 1920s Art Deco period, cocktail-style jewellery of the 1940s and ’50s, and dazzling creations from every era since.

The most recent Blue Book includes the US$12 million Tiffany Majestic necklace with more than 300 hand-cut diamonds that surround a 30.31-carat, flawless diamond drop.

Diamond heritage

Diamonds, including rare fancy colour diamonds, form the backbone of Tiffany’s heritage, sparkle through the company’s history. Charles Tiffany introduced fabulous gemstones to the American market, with the purchase of a cache of splendid diamonds from French and Spanish aristocrats in 1848. The resulting pieces saw him dubbed the ‘King of Diamonds’ by the press.

The link was consolidated when in 1878, Tiffany acquired one of the world’s largest and finest fancy yellow diamonds from the Kimberley diamond mines in South Africa. The diamond was cut from 287.42 carats to 128.54 carats with 82 facets, crafted to enhance its fire and colour, rather than its size. Named the Tiffany Diamond, the stone became an exemplar of Tiffany craftsmanship.

In 1886, Tiffany again changed the face of jewellery-buying, by introducing the engagement ring, as we know it today. Previously, diamond rings were set deep in bezels, but Tiffany introduced a six-prong setting, that is hardly visible to the eye. It was designed to highlight brilliant-cut diamonds by lifting the stone off the band allowing the light to flow through and catch each facet, maximising its brilliance.

1889

Tiffany & Co. was by now recognised as the world’s diamond authority, with the company’s exhibit at the 1889 Paris fair heralded as “the most extraordinary collection of jewels ever produced by an American jewellery house.” An unprecedented number of awards led to Tiffany’s appointment as Royal Jeweller to the crowned heads of Europe, as well as the Ottoman Emperor and the Czar of Russia.

Fancy colour diamonds played a prominent role in Tiffany’s award-winning displays at the great world fairs from 1876 to 1915, and continue to do so. Only one in 10,000 diamonds is a fancy colour and very few meet Tiffany’s exacting standards. Those that do have a deep enough natural colour to qualify as a fine, fancy colour diamond—the rarest of the rare.

Tiffany’s fancy colour diamonds are assigned colour grades at the Tiffany Gemological Laboratory. The grades are based on three criteria: hue, the basic body colour; tone, the lightness or darkness of the hue; and saturation, the purity of the hue and the amount and quality of modifying shades. Other natural properties including brilliance and fire combine with such hues as yellow, pink, blue, green and even orange to create a mesmerizing vibrancy that no other gemstone possesses.

Tiffany’s skilled stonecutters determine the exact faceting arrangement that will reveal the stone’s spectacular beauty. Master jewellers then design a platinum mounting that unleash the diamond’s natural radiance from every angle.

Remaining cutting edge

Despite its handsome heritage, Tiffany & Co has never become old fashioned, encouraging its designers to create and capture the spirit of the times, from the extravagance of the 1920s to the modernism of the 1930s and the aerodynamic age of the 1940s and 1950s. Jean Schlumberger, one of the 20th century’s greatest jewellery designers arrived at Tiffany in 1956. His bejewelled flowers, birds and ocean life remain the pride of Tiffany & Co.

In addition, Tiffany welcomed other visionary designers, including Elsa Peretti, who transformed 1970s jewellery design with an elegant simplicity based on natural forms; and Paloma Picasso, who followed in 1980 with jewellery of bold originality.
 

In 2012, Tiffany marked its 175th anniversary. In honour of this milestone, the Tiffany Diamond was reset in a magnificent necklace of dazzling white diamonds designed by Schlumberger. After travelling to gala celebrations around the world, the diamond returned to its permanent place of honour on the Main Floor of Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue store.

This priceless gem is symbolic of a heritage based on the highest standards of design excellence. These standards have made Tiffany & Co. one of America’s great institutions, a world-renowned jeweller with more than 200 stores worldwide. 

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