Tiffany & Co. is an American institution known for simple elegance, style and tradition in the world of jewelry, tableware and glass. Of course, most people associate it with Breakfast at Tiffany's, the exclusive little blue box, and things few can afford, but Tiffany has a history that's steeped in capitalism and good taste, for a price.
Tiffany & Co. actually started out as Tiffany and Young in 1837 by Charles Lewis Tiffany and John Young, classmates who set up shop at 259 Broadway as purveyors of fancy goods and stationary. Of note is that each item for sale that September 18th had a non-negotiable selling price, which was unheard of at the time, and started a retail revolution in the sale of goods. Tiffany also introduced the first catalog used in the United States.
In the world of jewelry, Tiffany has been responsible for a number of firsts. The Tiffany standards for silver and platinum were accepted as the American standard for purity: 925/1000 for silver and 950/1000 for platinum. They also had a heavy hand, through George Kunz, in having the metric carat adopted as the standard for gem weight. Tiffany's silverware is world-renowned, and garnered the first Award of Merit at the Paris Exposition Universelle received by an American design house. Tiffany first introduced the elevated diamond setting artifice known as the 'Tiffany Setting' in 1886. Prior to this design, most diamonds were set much closer to the band of a ring; Tiffany's design elevated the diamond, increasing light from underneath, resulting in more fire. Tiffany's art jewelry department has churned out some of the world's most cutting edge jewelry innovations. They also introduced Tanzanite to the world in 1969.
Tiffany not only excelled in the jewelry world, but contributed many designs and innovations elsewhere. Tiffany provided the manufacture of swords and medical implements for the Union Army during the Civil War. They were also commissioned to design works such as an inaugural pitcher for Abraham Lincoln, the Super Bowl trophy and the White House china service. Tiffany also redesigned the Great Seal in 1885, the seal on the one dollar bill.
Tiffany designs are often copied in the jewelry industry, and they continue to be very competitive and popular in the upper-end market, the Etoile (flush set diamond pieces in brushed platinum) and Lucinda (square cut diamond engagement rings) offerings being the most recent designs copied throughout the market. Tiffany continues to be an industry leader and standard setter, and an American contender in the world of fine jewelry.