The name Tiffany is now synonymous with luxury around the globe, but the company was born from slightly more humble beginnings. In 1837, 25-year-old Charles Lewis Tiffany and his friend John Young opened a stationary and fancy goods store in New York City on Broadway. Catering to fashionable men and women, they purveyed a new “American style” more inspired by the natural world rather than the ceremonial patterns and ornamented Victorian opulence of earlier decades. In 1853, Charles Tiffany took control of the company and renamed it Tiffany & Co. By then, he had already introduced their signature, and now iconic, robin’s egg blue color.
Tiffany’s silver studio, headed by celebrated silversmith Edward C. Moore, was the first American school of design. Moore compiled an enormous collection of sketches and artwork, encouraging apprentices both to study them as well as to observe and sketch the natural world. Under his guidance, the studio developed their own design identity and became famous for elegant, Japonesque-style silver and glittering gemstone and diamond jewelry. Tiffany & Co. became the first American company to adopt the British silver standard of using only 92% pure metal, and he achieved international acclaim at the 1867 Paris World’s Fair where he was awarded the Grand Prix for silver craftsmanship; it was the first time an American design firm had been honored so by a foreign jury.
By 1870, Tiffany & Co. had become the premier silversmith in America and leading purveyor of jewels and timepieces. Tiffany purchased crown jewels from France and Spain, revolutionized the engagement ring with solitaire prong-set stones, and by the end of the century would be known as the “King of Diamonds”—a fitting title for someone who was appointed Royal Jeweler to the crowned heads of Europe, the Ottoman Emperor, and the Czar of Russia. The firm won numerous awards at international exhibitions, employed more than one thousand people, and had established branches in London, Geneva, and Paris prior to Tiffany’s death in 1902. His son, Louis Comfort Tiffany (founder of Tiffany Studios), then took the helm and became design director.