Tiffany’s heritage as a premier watchmaker can be traced through a timeline of brilliant innovations that extends from the jeweler’s founding in 1837 to the present, with the streamlined Tiffany Grand
The signature details of the Tiffany Mark® collection – fine-layered case construction, sculptured hands, elongated Roman numerals, and hand-assembled Swiss movements – are inspired by the sleek gold pocket watches produced at Tiffany’s Geneva watchmaking facility, established in the 1870s.
These elegant gold watches that, along with Tiffany jewels and sterling silver masterpieces shaped the American design aesthetic, were preceded by another important introduction. In 1851, founder Charles Lewis Tiffany and Messrs. Patek and Philippe signed an agreement making Tiffany & Co. the first retailer in America to carry Patek Philippe watches.
Later, Patek Philippe became private maker of Tiffany watches. In 2001, the partnership commemorated its 150th anniversary with the T150 Limited Edition Timepiece. Created by Patek Philippe, the eighteen-karat gold watch features the patented Annual Calendar movement and graphic “T” at 12 o’clock. The Geneva store and workshop the two companies shared in the 1860s is engraved on the watchcase back.
As Tiffany design continued to evolve, so did the company’s advances in movement accuracy and the number of patents Tiffany was awarded for technological achievement in horology. One such achievement was the Tiffany Timer. Introduced in 1866, this early stopwatch was used extensively for engineering and scientific purposes, as well as sporting events.
Tiffany jewelers also furthered fine watchmaking with gold and jewel-encrusted designs. At the 1876 Philadelphia World’s Fair, Tiffany was honored for its jeweled watches. A centerpiece of Tiffany’s gold medal exhibit at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair was the American Wild Rose Lapel Watch, a diamond and enamel creation by chief designer Paulding Farnham (1859-1927). Tiffany also received medals for watchcases and astronomical clocks at the 1893 Chicago fair.
In 1881, Frederick Law Olmstead, designer of New York’s Central Park, commissioned Tiffany to make a carillon for the United States Capitol. Tiffany also created clocks for the residences of Henry James, Louis Sherry, George Westinghouse, the Vanderbilts, and organizations such as the Union League and the New York Supreme Court.
In the 1880s, Tiffany designed extraordinary case clocks, including wood cases richly carved with Near Eastern and Indian motifs. The cases housed intricate clocks with a variety of dials that displayed the day and date, seasons, signs of the zodiac, and phases of the moon. Enchanting Westminster chimes struck on the quarter hour. These remarkable clocks may be seen today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Tiffany & Co. Archives.
Tiffany’s colorful jewels introduced new vitality into twentieth century fashion. At the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the company exhibited an astonishing array of “Cocktail Style” jewelry, including watches favored by the nightclub set at El Morocco and the Stork Club. The Trapezoid wristwatch (c. 1941) captures the glamour of this extravagant motif, with ‘snake’ chain, tinted gold, geometric styling, and ruby highlights.
One of the great symbols of Tiffany & Co. is the Atlas clock, featuring a nine-foot figure of Atlas shouldering a round clock approximately four feet in diameter. Founder Charles Lewis Tiffany first placed the carved wood and bronze clock above his store at 550 Broadway. Today the clock graces the company’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue. In 1983, the Tiffany Atlas® collection of timepieces was introduced in celebration of the clock’s history. The patented design features raised Roman numerals and matte and diamond-polished surfaces that generate a sensuous play of light.
Like the legendary Atlas clock relied on for accuracy by generations of New Yorkers, Tiffany has embodied the highest standards of quality and craftsmanship for over eight generations. This commitment to excellence has kept the company not only right on time, but right in style, too
Tiffany & Co. History
The 1830s in New York City were a time of dynamic growth, extravagant tastes and golden opportunity for anyone with a little capital and an abundance of imagination. In 1837, New York became the proving ground for twenty-five-year-old Charles Lewis Tiffany and John B. Young, who opened a “stationery and fancy goods” store with a $1,000 advance from Tiffany’s father.
On their way to the new emporium at 259 Broadway, fashionable ladies in silks, satins, and beribboned bonnets faced a gauntlet of narrow streets teeming with horses and carriages and the hurly-burly of city life. At Tiffany & Co. they discovered a newly emerging “American style” that departed from the European design aesthetic, which was rooted in religious and ceremonial patterns and the Victorian era’s mannered opulence.
The young entrepreneurs were inspired by the natural world, which they interpreted in exquisite patterns of simplicity, harmony and clarity. These became the hallmarks of Tiffany design, first in silver hollowware and flatware, and later in jewelry. Tiffany first achieved international recognition at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867.
The company was awarded the grand prize for silver craftsmanship, the first time that an American design house had been so honored by a foreign jury. Tiffany was the first American company to employ the 925/1000 standard of silver purity. Largely through the efforts of Charles Lewis Tiffany, this ratio was adopted by the United States Congress as the American sterling silver standard.
The silver studio of Tiffany & Co. was the first American school of design and, as one observer remarked, “a teacher of art progress.” Apprentices were encouraged to observe and sketch nature, and to explore the vast collections of sketches and artwork assembled by Edward C. Moore, the head of the studio.
By 1870 Tiffany & Co. had become America’s premier purveyor of jewels and timepieces as well as luxury table, personal, and household accessories. At the turn of the 20th century the company had more than one thousand employees and branches in London, Paris, and Geneva.
In 1878 Tiffany acquired one of the world’s largest and finest fancy yellow diamonds from the Kimberley diamond mines in South Africa. Under the guidance of Tiffany’s eminent gemologist, Dr. George Frederick Kunz, the diamond was cut from 287.42 carats to 128.54 carats with 82 facets (most brilliant-cut diamonds have only 58), which gave the stone its legendary fire and brilliance.
Designated the Tiffany Diamond, the stone became an exemplar of Tiffany craftsmanship. In 1886 Tiffany introduced the engagement ring as we know it today—the Tiffany® Setting— an innovation that lifts the diamond above the band with six platinum prongs, allowing a more complete return of light from the stone and maximizing its brilliance. Today the Tiffany Setting continues as one of the most popular engagement ring styles and shining symbol of the jeweler’s diamond authority. During New York’s Gilded Age, Tiffany was prospering as never before.
At the same time, the world had embarked on the Age of Expositions, the era of show-stopping extravaganzas that took place in the last decades of the 19th century and into the 20th in Paris, Chicago, Buffalo and St. Louis. At every venue, Tiffany won the highest honors and recognition as the undisputed leader in the world of jewels. The company’s exhibit at the 1889 Paris fair was heralded as “the most extraordinary collection of jewels ever produced by an American jewelry house.”
Tiffany produced an equally praiseworthy collection for the 1900 Paris fair, along with magnificent silver pieces based on Native American pottery and basket designs. The unprecedented commendation and number of awards bestowed on the jeweler led to Tiffany’s appointment as Imperial Jeweler and Royal Jeweler to the crowned heads of Europe, as well as the Ottoman Emperor and the Czar and Czarina of Russia.
With the death of Charles Lewis Tiffany in 1902, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the founder’s son, became Tiffany’s first Director of Design. An entire floor of Tiffany & Co. was devoted to merchandise crafted in the Tiffany Studios, Louis Comfort Tiffany’s atelier. His position as America’s leading designer was well established by 1882, when President Chester Arthur invited him to redecorate the White House.
By 1900 the younger Tiffany was a world leader in the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements. The famed artist created a remarkable range of designs, from technically brilliant leaded glass to colorful Tiffany favrile glass, and enameled and painterly jewels based on American plants and flowers.
Throughout the jeweler’s history, the most prominent members of American society were frequent Tiffany customers. Vanderbilts, Astors, Whitneys and Havemeyers, as well as J.P. Morgan, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Paul Mellon, commissioned Tiffany to produce gold and silver services. Admirers of Lillian Russell ordered a sterling silver bicycle. President Lincoln purchased a seed pearl necklace for his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. And a young Franklin Roosevelt purchased a Tiffany engagement ring in 1904.
As the twentieth century progressed, Tiffany designs captured 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. Tiffany china set the stage for White House dinners and Tiffany jewels accented the elegant clothes of the world’s most glamorous women, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Babe Paley and Diana Vreeland.
Very often world-renowned jeweler Jean Schlumberger created their jewelry. Hired in 1956 by then Tiffany chairman Walter Hoving, Schlumberger’s lavish, nature-inspired jewels remain the pride of Tiffany & Co.
Throughout Tiffany’s history, the United States and foreign governments have called upon the company to create special commissions. Among them are the Congressional Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military award; and the 1885 redesign of the Great Seal of the United States, which can be seen on official government documents as well as on the one-dollar bill.
Business and professional organizations have also called on Tiffany design expertise through Tiffany Business Sales. The most famous of these commissions is the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the National Football League Super Bowl Championship. Tiffany has had the distinction of creating this original and well-known design since the first Super Bowl in 1967.The legendary style of Tiffany design is perhaps best represented by the annual Blue Book Collection, featuring Tiffany’s and the world’s most spectacular and glamorous jewels.
Initially published in 1845, the Tiffany Blue Book was the first such catalogue to be distributed in the U.S. Today’s version showcases the elite of diamonds and colored gemstones in custom-designed settings, crafted with time-honored jewelry techniques and inspired by jewels in the Tiffany & Co. Archives.
Over the past two centuries, Tiffany has built an international reputation as a premier jeweler and the ultimate source of gifts for life’s most cherished occasions. Whether it’s a milestone in the life of a company or a family, or an individual’s crowning achievement, Tiffany gifts wrapped in the signature Tiffany Blue Box® symbolize the rich heritage and unparalleled reputation Tiffany & Co. has enjoyed as one of America’s great institutions.
Note: TIFFANY & CO., TIFFANY, TIFFANY GRAND, TIFFANY MARK, TIFFANY MARK T-57, and ATLAS and are trademarks of Tiffany and Company.