The 1830s in New York City were a time of dynamic growth and golden opportunity for anyone with a little capital and an abundance of imagination. In 1837 New York became the proving ground for 25-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. At Tiffany & Co. they discovered a newly emerging “American style” that departed from the European design aesthetic, which was rooted in ceremonial patterns and the Victorian era’s mannered opulence. The young entrepreneurs were inspired by the natural world, which they interpreted in patterns of simplicity, harmony and clarity.
Tiffany first achieved international recognition at the 1867 Paris World’s fair. 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 British silver standard (92% pure). Largely through the efforts of Charles Lewis Tiffany, this standard was adopted by the U.S. Government.
The Tiffany & Co. silver studio was the first American school of design. Apprentices were encouraged to observe and sketch nature, and to explore the vast collections of sketches and artwork assembled by Edward C. Moore, the celebrated silversmith and head of the studio. By 1870 Tiffany & Co. had become the America's premier silversmith and purveyor of jewels and timepieces. 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, which gave the stone its legendary fire and brilliance. Named the Tiffany Diamond, the stone became an exemplar of Tiffany craftsmanship.
The legacy of Tiffany design is richly told in the annual Blue Book Collection, featuring Tiffany’s and the world’s most spectacular jewels. Initially published in 1845, the Tiffany Blue Book was the first such catalogue to be distributed in the U.S. Since 1878, the signature Tiffany Blue® color has distinguished the catalogue’s cover, as well as the famous Tiffany Blue Box®, an icon of style and sophistication.