Charles Lewis Tiffany (c. 1841)
One hundred and seventy-five years ago, a young entrepreneur and his partner established a stationery and fancy goods store in New York City. The year was 1837, and the new country was still in the throes of establishing its identity, eager to prove that there were Americans of style and taste.
To many minds, Europe was still the arbiter of all things elegant, while America was a much younger country cousin who didn’t know which fork to use. Sensing this bias, the entrepreneur was eager to elevate his American store to the standards of Europe, but interpreted by the more natural aesthetic of America. He wanted to sell the best, but in an entirely new, innovative way. When some expatriate French aristocrats, eager for funds, offered to sell him a cache of exquisite diamonds, he seized the opportunity to transform his store from “fancy goods” to something even more valuable. Although only in his twenties, Charles Lewis Tiffany’s big gamble paid off.
Throngs flocked to see the diamonds, which at the time were the most expensive gemstones for sale in America. The New York press crowned him the “King of Diamonds” and lauded his initiative. His purchase of a prominent silver works added to the cachet, as did the establishment of an apprentice program known as the Tiffany School, the first design school in America.
Mary Todd Lincoln in her Inaugural Gown with Tiffany pearls (1861)
By mid-century, Tiffany and Company was considered one of the premier American purveyors of luxury goods. President Lincoln purchased a suite of seed pearls for his wife to wear to his Inaugural Ball. Ulysses S. Grant commissioned a ceremonial sword shortly thereafter. The Tiffany stamp became de rigeur on racing trophies, significant medals, and other commemorative pieces of chased and wrought sterling silver. Tiffany created a special suite of jewels to celebrate the American Centennial in 1976, including the first version of the diamond, ruby and sapphire flag brooch that has been widely emulated.
Orchid brooch (c. 1889) of enamel, diamonds and 18 karat gold.
But the greatest coup was the 1880′s commission from the U.S. government to redesign the Great Seal of the United States. The familiar medallion of an eagle clutching arrows and olive branches appears on nearly every document, but is most familiar on the back of the one dollar bill. Tiffany’s origins in copperplate stationery engraving, combined with its emphasis on classical design, came together on a commission that is literally seen and touched by millions of Americans every day.
The 1880′s were also important for Tiffany’s diamond business. The acquisition of a rare fancy yellow diamond cut to a dazzling 126 carats caused an enormous stir, as it does to this day, where it still can be seen in the New York flagship.
The Wade family diamond necklace (1900)
Tiffany also worked with smaller diamonds, mounting them in solitaire in a higher six-prong setting to create the engagement ring as we know it. By lifting the stone off the band into the light, Tiffany was able to enhance the brilliance and appeal of diamonds of every size.
Eleanor Roosevelt with a Tiffany engagement ring (ca. 1905)
By the time of its centennial, Tiffany and Company was well known throughout the world. Commissions from the Ottoman Emperor, the Czar of Russian, and many crowned heads of Europe created an international demand for gems and luxury goods designed and made in America, a striking contrast from the company’s early days.
Portrait of Louis Comfort Tiffany by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, 1911
When the founder’s son, Louis Comfort Tiffany, took over the reins as art director at the turn of the century, he brought another infusion of innovation to the already famous company. Already a world leader in the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements, his focus on the natural world in design assured Tiffany’s prominence as an indigenous American brand.
He believed that the inspiration of flowers and insects restored the human spirit, and he made liberal use of colored metals, enamels and stones in his prodigious catalog of designs, calling each of his pieces, “a little missionary of art.” He was also influenced by ancient cultures, borrowing and juxtaposing Etruscan, Greek, Egyptian, Indian, and Moorish motifs. He believe that creating beautiful, useful objects brought refinement to the ordinary tasks of life.
Jean Schlumberger’s Ribbon Rosette necklace with the Ribbon clip and Diamond
That design mantle was carried forward in the twentieth century by Frenchman Jean Schlumberger, whose Paris and New York salons were patronized by Diana Vreeland and an extremely chic clientele of starlets and socialites.
Jean Schlumberger’s colorful enamel bracelets
When Schlumberger joined Tiffany in 1956, he had access to an unlimited supply of precious stones with which to create his fantastical exotic creatures, flowers, and birds. He revived the interest in enamel bracelets, which became known as “Jackie bracelets” after their most famous aficionado, Jacqueline Kennedy. His signature designs are still in production, and widely recognized today for their charming juxtaposition of gold, diamonds, and vibrant gems.
Elsa Peretti’s Bone cuff in sterling silver and 18 karat gold
The next generation of Tiffany designers continues to create distinctive jewelry that spans the decades. Elsa Peretti’s fluid heart, bean, starfish, and bone designs are synonymous with the brand, and variations continue to be best-sellers decades after their introduction.
Paloma’s Dove pendants by Paloma Picasso for Tiffany & Co.
Paloma Picasso’s distinctive and bold designs have established her as an artist in her own right, and continue to evolve with time and taste.
Torque bangle and ring in concrete with sterling silver by Frank Gehry
Architect Frank Gehry’s bold and angular approach has taken jewelry in a new direction, creating a new vernacular with his streamlined aesthetic.
Tiffany Harriet satchel in florentine blue, and Sloane twist top handle in plum
And leather designers Richard Lambertson and John Truex continue to create handbags, totes, scarves, and accessories with luxe materials, timeless shapes, jewel-like hardware, all lined in distinctive, desirable Tiffany blue.
The American Flag brooch replicates the 1776 American flag
Surviving 175 years as a respected, admired American enterprise is no small feat. Celebrating 175 years as a brand that evokes delight, joy, excitement, and awe is something even greater. Happy Glittering, Shining, Glorious Birthday, Tiffany!
You can read more from Jennifer Raiser at SFWire.com, Nob Hill Gazette, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffingtonpost.com.
Tags: Charles Lewis Tiffany, Diana Vreeland, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elsa Peretti, Frank Gehry, Jacqueline Kennedy, Jean Schlumberger, Jennifer Raiser, John Truex, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Paloma Picasso, President Lincoln, Richard Lambertson, Ulysses Grant
With Sloan and Roger Barnett, Sabrina Buell and Yves Behar, Jean-Pierre Conte, and Alison and Mark Pincus, Gucci recently hosted a private cocktail party at the San Francisco store to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the loafer, and the new 1953 collection for men and women.
Catherine Kwong’s living room, inspired by Mick Jagger and Bianca Jagger, is one of the highlights of the 2013 San Francisco Decorator Showcase, taking place at 2800 Pacific Avenue.
Michael S. Smith was recently honored at Hedge Gallery in San Francisco at a party hosted by Alison Pincus, Vanessa Getty and Allison Speer. His design work for a Palladian Villa in Malibu is being put up for auction at Christie’s in New York. Nicolas Berggruen, Princess Tatiana Galitzine, Dede Wilsey, and Sabrina Buell were among the guests.
Deepa Pakianathan and Phil Pemberton recently hosted a reception for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in anticipation of its upcoming Gala on April 20, 2013, which pays tribute to legendary opera baritone and Conservatory Advisory Board member Thomas Hampson.
Conservatory mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook directs and stars in a program featuring special performances by Hampson with Conservatory students, faculty and guest artists. Teresa Medearis and Barbara Walkowski co-chair the event, with catering by McCall’s Catering and Events and decor by Blueprint Studios.
Tickets for this very special occasion can be purchased at www.sfcm.edu
UCSF Partners in Care recently held its 2013 kick-off membership event at Reed & Greenough. Membership co-Chairs Schuyler Hudak and Libby Leffler hosted the launch party and kicked off the well-attended evening with brief remarks, followed by UCSF Partners in Care President Katie Budge, who spoke about the services that the auxiliary organization provides to the hospital.
UCSF Partners in Care works with UCSF hospital staff to fund programs that provide comfort and well-being to patients and their families while visiting the UCSF medical center.
Guests enjoyed spirited greyhounds nicknamed “Doctor’s Orders,” and a “Members Only” wine special while noshing on sweet treats from Kara’s Cupakes, and savory sliders and arancini from Cedar Hill Kitchen and Smokehouse.
Please visit www.ucsfpartnersincare.org for more information about this important organization.
Renowned European designer Ms. Madeline Pauw recently made an appearance at a delightful luncheon at Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco, where her Spring 2013 collection was presented.
The Pauw collection is designed by Madeleine Pauw, daughter of the original founders. Pauw is known for its luxurious fabrics and soft touches of femininity while integrating just a splash of masculine undertones, but always keeping the fit and style in mind for the female physique. The company has been in business for over 50 years, and originally was created in the Netherlands where it currently has 29 stores.
You can purchase pieces from Pauw at Saks Fifth Avenue at 384 Post Street, San Francisco, or online at Saks Fifth Avenue
The Mid Winter Gala for 2013 honored the exhibit, “Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis” with a chic winter wonderland that raised over $400k. Marissa Mayer, Jonathan Ive, Alison Pincus, Vanessa Getty, Dick Costolo, Stephan Jenkins, Connie Nielsen, Lori Levine, Evgenia Peretz, Jeremy Stoppelman, Trevor Traina, Allison Speer and Kathryn Lasater were among the 380 who attended.
Stephanie Phair, the managing director of Outnet.com, recently visited from London to host a luncheon previewing Oscar de la Renta’s new limited edition collection designed exclusively for The Outnet.
The Italian artist, Paolo Troilo, recently debuted his first U.S. exhibit at Coup d’Etat, the most exceptional designer space in San Francisco.
Sponsored by Testa Vineyards, the event brought together San Francisco tastemakers such as Jack Calhoun, Stephen Brady, Gary Friedman, Joy Bianchi, Anna Weinberg, Ken Fulk, and Jamie Finegold, among others.
The exhibit will run at Coup d’Etat until May 2013.
Visit Coup d’Etat at 111 Rhode Island, or online at coupdetatsf.com
The International Museum of Women (IMOW) hosted its annual Celebrating Change Benefit on March 6th, 2013, and the associated Vanguard Group hosted its Art Live Lounge benefit.
This year’s benefit featured IMOW’s second annual Innovator Award for Women in Technology, presented to Padmasree Warrior, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer of Cisco Systems.
The International Museum of Women is an innovative online museum that showcases art, stories and ideas to celebrate, inspire and advance the lives of women around the world. With the support of over 500 guests, IMOW raised over $200,000 to benefit its mission and exhibitions. Guests enjoyed a night of art and inspiration from the museum’s virtual collection, music, networking and dancing, while watching notable female artists create original artwork.
Learn more about the International Museum of Women at www.imow.org
Jay Jeffers recently designed three of the 23 penthouses of the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Lake Tahoe. The homes range from $1,250,000 to $4,500,000 in price.