Design Lesson

The history of Tiffany & Co.

The history of Tiffany & Co. Author: Style At Home

Design Lesson

The history of Tiffany & Co.

There is no store so iconic as Tiffany & Co. Or at least none that can stake claim to a colour so instantly recognizable as the Tiffany Blue of its signage and gift boxes and bags. There is also none that plays such an integral part in a much-loved film from Hollywood’s Golden Era. Of course, we’re talking about the classic Audrey Hepburn flick Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Then, as now, opening a gift from Tiffany tied up in white satin ribbon and coddled in a box of the most beautiful medium shade of robin’s egg blue is an exciting ceremony in and of itself.

Manhattan beginnings

This retailer, so deeply associated with the fine shopping of uptown Manhattan, opened its doors in 1837 on one of New York’s best known streets, Broadway. Entrepreneur Charles Lewis Tiffany’s first-day sales totals (the store was then called Tiffany & Young) came up to $4.98. (Something tells us modern-day Tiffany locations rake in considerably more.) Though many of us associate Tiffany with jewelry, from the outset fine merchandise and housewares, particularly silver were (and are) offered. (Tiffany history buffs may enjoy diving deep into the history of the company in Charles L. Tiffany and the House of Tiffany & Co. available as a free e-book through Google.

Thirty years after opening, Tiffany had four New York locations. As of this writing, there are more than 200 Tiffany stores and the company employs more than 10,000 people globally. Its headquarters and flagship store, as Holly Golightly could tell you, is on the famed Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. In Canada alone there are stores in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Diamonds and silver

Over the decades, Tiffany & Co. has arguably become most famous for its diamonds and silversmithing. Engagement rings with top-notch diamonds -- Tiffany refuses to sell any diamonds below a certain quality -- have been a cornerstone of its business since the simple six-prong Tiffany Setting solitaire diamond engagement ring was first offered to clientele in 1886. Silver items, be it a modern Elsa Peretti-designed bracelet or a hollow-ware pitcher from 1883, are also among Tiffany’s highly coveted items.

Tiffany Blue and its history

According to Tiffany’s website, it was the first to send out a mail-order catalogue in America, back in 1845. It was called the Tiffany Blue Book and it used, for the first time but certainly not the last, the particular hue of blue still used for the brand. The trademark Tiffany Blue is a shade that riffs on turquoise, which in addition to being the name of the colour is also a gemstone that was popular in the 19th Century. This gorgeous blue-green colour was also popular with Victorian-era brides of the time according to Tiffany & Co, and was sometimes referred to as forget-me-not-blue. For the true colour geeks among us, note that Tiffany Blue is not just any shade of medium turquoise-y robins-egg blue, it’s actually a custom colour made by Pantone. And its Pantone number is 1837, the year of Tiffany’s inception.

Tiffany and the home

Tiffany has always sold items for the home, beginning with paper goods among other luxe items. Though not in the stationery business any longer, interestingly, the venerable American company still sells lovely, slender pens of the ballpoint variety. It also has a long history of providing the White House with custom china. Nowadays, it is perhaps most eminent in the world of decor as a supplier of heirloom-worthy special-occasion gifts for the home. Think vases, candlesticks, champagne flutes and piggy banks for weddings, births and anniversaries. And not just silver giftware is on offer: the shelves and display cases at Tiffany hold crystal, earthenware and porcelain, too. Lucky are the couples who not only get to unwrap the beautiful Tiffany Blue packaging, but also get to enjoy something enduringly stylish in their homes.

Love Tiffany Blue? Check out 10 ways to add Tiffany Blue-inspired hues to your home.

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Design Lesson

The history of Tiffany & Co.