Tiffany & Company, founded in 1837 by Charles Lewis Tiffany and John Young (as “Tiffany & Young”), is a famous name, not only in the jewelry business. The store (which then sold paper goods and gift items) opened on September 18, 1837 on Broadway in New York City, and the sales total that first day came to $4.89! The company’s sales have obviously only continued to grow, and today, they sell not only jewelry, but watches, leather goods, jewelry boxes, glassware, and miscellaneous gifts for special occasions. That gorgeous blue box was there right from the start, and the only way you could get one was to purchase a Tiffany item.
Tiffany’s has been a groundbreaking company in many ways. In 1845, they published the first “Blue Book”, their catalog of products, which was also the first mail-order catalog in the US. In 1878, Charles Lewis Tiffany acquired the now famous yellow Tiffany Diamond (which Audrey Hepburn wore on a necklace in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”). It is now on display at their flagship store on Fifth Avenue in NYC. And as the first jeweler to do so, they hired a gemologist, Dr. George Kunz. They were also the first company to set the 925/1000 silver standard (in 1851) which is now the standard for Sterling silver in the US and many other countries.
In 1902, Charles’ son Louis Comfort Tiffany (who was a strong figure in the Art Nouveau movement, and famous for his stained glass work) became the company’s (first) director of design and opened a new division of the company called “Tiffany Art Jewelry”. He worked mainly in glass, enamel and gemstones, and his jewelry designs were bold, colorful and exotic.That same year, they introduced the pinkish purple gemstone Kunzite (named after Dr. Kunz), and later the blush pink Morganite (a gemstone in the beryl family) and the vivid blue Tanzanite.
The charms have been part of the company’s collection since the mid-1800s. And although they are not the least expensive charms you can find (the “cheapest” silver charms are $65, and the gold charms range in price from $200 to over $8,000), it’s easy to see why. There is a huge selection of cute, classic, gorgeous and fun designs in white gold, platinum, silver, rose gold, lacquer, and stainless steel in several categories to choose from. Some have clip on clasps, others jump rings. You can order just the charm(s), one charm on a link chain bracelet (or chain necklace) or put together an entire loaded charm bracelet on their website.
The charms are fabulous, and many of my favorites are in the Travel & Hobbies category: the gold and diamond camera (I wish it came in silver too), the Tiffany blue silver and enamel convertible and scooter, the little handbag with its own blue enamel charm attached… irresistible!
Through the years, Tiffany’s have collaborated with fabulous artists such as Jean Schlumberger (beginning in 1956), Elsa Peretti (1974), and Paloma Picasso (1980) who all have designed many different fashion jewelry pieces for them, including pendants and charms. Picasso’s charms include an adorable painter’s palette in silver and enamel, a tiny yellow gold and red enamel lipstick, and a little sterling silver boat, and her silver heart and read enamel pendant is one of my favorites. Jean Schlumberger’s charm designs consist mostly of tiny gorgeous egg charms made from semi-precious stones and 18k yellow gold, and the Elsa Peretti designs include the adorable open heart and starfish pendants.
There are also several other charm collections including the “1837” which consists of a variety of locks and circles; the Atlas collection with one watch lock and 2 cube charms, all in sterling silver and stainless steel; the Return to Tiffany, which is all little heart lock charms with the inscription “Please return to Tiffany & Co New York” and then the gold or silver content mark; the Etoile which has only one charm – a yellow gold heart with diamonds; and the Tiffany Swing collection which also consists of only one piece: a tiny platinum circle with diamonds.
Because of their popularity (and somewhat hefty prices), there are a ton of fakes on the market. If you do an online search for “Tiffany Outlet”, you will end up with over 11,000,000 hits, and “Tiffany wholesale” results in over 14,000,000. However, none of these stores are selling authentic Tiffany jewelry. Tiffany’s do not have outlets or sell wholesale, nor do they ever have sales (searching on their website for the word “sale” results in the message: “Did you mean salt?”). The safest way to make sure you are not getting a knockoff is obviously to shop at a Tiffany store or on their website.
So how do you detect a fake? Ones first instinct is of course to look for the stamp or signature, as all of Tiffany’s jewelry is signed, but unfortunately, so are many of the fakes, making detection that way difficult. If you are considering buying a pre-owned Tiffany charm online from an auction site or private seller, make sure to ask questions. Ask for photos of the piece from all angles, including the stamp; compare those photos to the item on Tiffany’s website, and look for any little thing that may be off (and make sure the photos the seller are sending you are not just screen shots from the Tiffany site). Check the seller’s rating and feedback. Ask about their return and refund policies. But, even if you take all these precautions, I still recommend buying directly from Tiffany. If you are going to treat yourself (or someone else) to a piece of jewelry that is so special, why go through the worry and headache of not knowing if what you bought is authentic or not? The extra money spent is well worth the peace of mind.
Right from the start, Tiffany’s was an innovative, groundbreaking and glamorous company, and the trend continues today. Shopping, or even just browsing in one of their stores always feels like a special occasion, and opening a wrapped gift and seeing that blue box is a treat every time. And they look fabulous on your dresser!
Fore more on Tiffany, see my “New Charms From Tiffany” post