Tiffany & Company
TIFFANY & COMPANY
American luxury goods company
Founded: in New York City in 1837 by Charles Lewis Tiffany and John Young as a stationery and "fancy goods" emporium. Company History: Began jewelry sales, 1840s; added the manufacture of silver, 1850s; purchased the Tiffany Diamond, one of the world's largest yellow diamonds, 1878; introduced a six-prong diamond engagement ring, exhibiting what became known as the "Tiffany" setting, 1886; company moved to its present Fifth Avenue location, 1940; Tiffany family sells to the Hoving Corporation, 1955; company sold to cosmetics giant Avon Products, 1979; management repurchased the company in a leveraged buyout, 1984; Tiffany & Company becomes a publicly traded company, 1987; wholesale distribution of products to independent retailers discontinued, 1999; purchased stake in Canadian diamond miner Aber Resources, 1999. Company Address: 727 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10022, USA.
On TIFFANY & COMPANY:
Purtell, Joseph, The Tiffany Touch, New York, 1971.
Carpenter, Charles Hope, Tiffany Silver, New York, 1978.
Proddow, Penny, American Jewelry: Glamour and Tradition, New York, 1987.
Loring, John, Tiffany's 20th Century: A Portrait of American Style, New York, 1997.
Snowman, A. Kenneth, ed., The Master Jewelers, New York, 1990.
Cohen, Daniel, "Charles Tiffany's 'Fancy Goods' Shop and How It Grew," in Smithsonian, December 1987.
——, "Splendor in Glass," in Historic Preservation (New York), 1987.
Loring, John, "Tiffany & Company Celebrating 150 Years," in Architectural Digest, No. 10, 1987.
Safford, Frances Gruber, and Ruth Wilford Caccavale, "Japanesque Silver by Tiffany & Company in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," in Magazine Antiques (New York), October 1987.
Trachtenbert, Jeffrey, "Cocktails at Tiffany," in Forbes, 6 February 1989.
Lorge, Sarah,, "A Priceless Brand: Strategic Marketing at Tiffany & Company," in Sales & Marketing Management (New York), October 1998.
Curan, Catherine, "Multifaceted Success: After Years of Gains, Wall Street Notices Tiffany," in Crain's New York Business, 18 October 1999.***
Tiffany & Company is a name that, throughout its long history, has epitomized luxury. It is part of America's cultural lexicon, referenced in film, literature, and public discourse to signify the good life and social refinement. While linked in the popular imagination with cascades of diamonds, the firm retails a variety of selective items, including jewelry, glassware, flatware, china, writing materials, fashion accessories, and fragrances. Tiffany & Company's status as an iconic American institution is predicated on product quality and an authoritative marketing strategy promising exclusivity. All this is wrapped up in a trademark blue box, whose symbolic cachet is as valuable as the gift it holds.
Tiffany & Company trades not only in luxury products but also in a certain image. The famed ambience of the New York City flagship store, with its discreet sales staff, as well as company publications on etiquette and gem selection, are meant to position the company as far more than a retail store. Throughout its history, wealthy Americans have gone to Tiffany's to put a stamp on their own affluence and social respectability.
Part of the company's enduring legacy is its ability to draw on disparate sources for artistic inspiration while creating a distinctly American product. Tiffany's was a preeminent silver producer in the late 1800s, and its silver pieces reflected many of the influences of the time, from ornate Victorianism to simpler classical revival designs, to the growing fascination with the Orient and the Middle East. Craftspeople rigorously trained in the Tiffany apprenticeship program produced a tremendous amount of silverwork to supply the demands of a culture in which the dining room and its silver were paramount to social life and status. At exhibitions throughout the 19th century, the company won acclaim from European audiences skeptical of American ability in the decorative arts.
Innovative designers produced exclusively for the company, including Edward Moore, whose Japanese-influenced silver containers are still critically acclaimed and admired today. Moore also oversaw a celebrated collection of jewelry and silver inspired by Native American art. During this same period, a set of 25 enamel orchids designed by Paulding Farnham contributed to a European revival in enamels. With the efforts of mineralogist George Frederick Kunz, Tiffany popularized the decorative use of American gems, semiprecious stones, and freshwater pearls in jewelry design. At the same time it was promoting fine silver and jewelry, Tiffany & Company was also creating several popular sterling silver flatware lines, some of which are still produced. The late-19th century was a period of incredible design innovation for the company, and this combination of fine craftsmanship and artistic quality secured Tiffany's reputation among affluent American and international clientéle.
Charles Tiffany's son Louis Comfort Tiffany dominated Tiffany style in the early 20th century. Louis Tiffany was a leading proponent of art nouveau in America, taking themes from nature (emphasizing American flowers as well as animal and insect life) and rendering them in jewelry and glass. Louis Tiffany's hand-blown Favrile glass vases and bowls, his stained glass mosaics and lamps, his exuberant use of color combinations and innovative techniques were heralded in his day. Due to the growing trend of modernism, however, interest waned in Louis Tiffany's style and by his death in 1933, Tiffany & Company had entered a period of stalled artistic innovation.
Tiffany's so-called second Golden Age commenced under the management of Walter Hoving in 1955. He hired Jean Schlumberger, whose imaginative designs uniquely combined gems in highly detailed designs. Van Day Truex became design director and redesigned Tiffany's silver, crystal, and china lines. The company continued to hire design luminaries, including Donald Claflin in 1965, known for pieces based on imaginary or fictive creatures. The work of Elsa Peretti was introduced in 1974, followed the next year by the work of Angela Cummings. Designer Paloma Picasso's jewelry was introduced in 1980. Well-known designers were also commissioned to design Tiffany tableware. Current Tiffany design director John Loring commented, "I see a thread linking all the most worthwhile of Tiffany productions, however great the successive changes in taste. They are all an authentically American phenomena, derived from but not imitating the set ideas of European and Oriental sophistication. All Tiffany pieces are emphatically New World."
Despite a period in the 1980s under the management of Avon Products in which lower-quality, inexpensive goods were introduced to the Tiffany stock, Tiffany & Company continued to symbolize a specific American refinement and sumptuousness. Marketing strategies since the 1990s have sought to retain the upper-class patina of the Tiffany name while expanding into the middle-class and younger markets with affordable items, touring jewelry collections, and a sleek website. Even though the company successfully weathered economic recessions and years when fashion trends bypassed expensive jewelry, Tiffany now seems committed to negotiating the fine balance between exclusivity and accessibility. The company has slowly established its own retail locations across the U.S.; the goal is to have 75 locations across the country, bringing Tiffany style to a broader audience. Expansion has also included several international locations and the company's mail-order business, with slick catalogues further spreading the Tiffany name.
Tiffany & Company endures, in part, because its products promise far more than quality craftsmanship: they promise to lift the possessor up into an exclusive circle of social privilege and to identify a Tiffany client as having that most elusive quality of all, good taste.