The Tiffany’s brand was, of course, forever immortalised in the opening scenes of the 1961 film, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, in which Holly Golightly, played by Audrey Hepburn, eats breakfast from a paper bag while gazing at the window display of the iconic jewellery store in New York City. However, the brand has existed since Charles Lewis Tiffany took control of the company that he had originally formed with John Burnett Young in 1837, in 1850. The founder remained at the helm of his company until 1902, when he died at the age of 90 but, long before that time, had already established his name as the most prestigious jewellery brand in the United States and created heritage that has already lasted the better part of two centuries.
Antique jewellery is jewellery that is at least 100 years old and can, verifiably, be dated as such. In 1886, the company introduced the modern incarnation of the Tiffany engagement ring, using its own, proprietary setting to lift cut diamonds away from the band, or shank, of the ring to allow the stones to sparkle more intensely. Consequently, the distinctive “Blue Box”, in forget-me-not, or robin’s egg blue – the name and colour are nowadays trademarked, as is the ribbon tied around the box – became one of the most desirable carton in history. Tiffany rings proved popular with luminaries of American society, including Frankelin Roosevelt, who bought an antique Tiffany engagement ring, with the new, six-prong setting, in 1904. In the early years of the twentieth century, Louis, son of Charles, turned his hand to jewellery design, specialising in natural pieces, such as flowers, fruit and insects, which he created as works of art in their own right, regardless of monetary value.
The classic Tiffany engagement ring brings to mind a single solitaire ring with a large carat diamond. This was popularised by Tiffany in New York in the late 1940's and early 1950's. The range has moved on today and now there are several varieties available but the single solitaire is still the most popular.
Vintage jewellery, on the other hand, is less well-defined although, generally speaking, it is jewellery that is at least 25 years old, but not so old that is can legitimately be described as antique. Throughout the twentieth century, company designs kept pace with the changing times, from the flowing natural forms of Art Nouveau, to the bold shapes and colours of Art Deco, to the aerodynamic design of the so-called “Jet Age”. During World War II, charms, in patriotic designs, were popular with servicemen overseas as keepsakes for their loved ones, while later in the century, distinctive jewels, including Tiffany engagement rings, brooches and other items, were worn by style icons, including Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor and Diane Vreeland, editor of “Vogue” magazine. Vintage Tiffany designs by Jean Schlumberger – who, according to Vreeland, appreciated ‘the miracle of jewels’ – and Nicholas Bonagard, who both started work for the company in 1956, are still much sought after. Similar comments apply to those by Elsa Perreti and Paloma Picasso, who began their careers in 1974 and 1980, respectively. Peretti travelled widely in the Far East, providing with inspiration for celebrated designs such as the Open Heart, which is still as desirable today as it ever was. Paloma Picasso, youngest child of Pablo, has also created numerous, iconic collections, typified by large, colourful stones.
Susannah Lovis stocks a huge range of authentic Tiffany and Co pieces available to buy online and also from the Susannah Lovis shop in the Burlington Arcade, London.