Tiffany & Co.
2010 AIGA CORPORATE LEADERSHIP AWARD
Recognized for the timeless appeal of its jewelry brand, forged by an enduring commitment to craft, exemplary design and preservation of natural resources.
Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of Tiffany & Co., once said that the key to the company’s success is the philosophy “good design is good business.” With that belief at its core, Tiffany & Co. has been the leading American fine jeweler for nearly 175 years, producing almost two centuries’ worth of dazzling jewels and distinctive design for every momentous occasion—from the silver rattle to the graduation watch to the diamond engagement ring. “It’s from Tiffany” is a proud statement with a long tradition that is as meaningful as ever today.
Since the earliest days of the New York–based company, when President Abraham Lincoln bought a necklace for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, Tiffany has brought together the finest gems and quality metals in innovative designs fused with careful craftsmanship to define American elegance. What further distinguishes the business—aside from its signature robin’s-egg-hued boxes, in the trademarked Tiffany Blue—is the idea that Tiffany jewelry should be worn, not stored away in bank vaults. “Beautiful design makes a beautiful life,” said Charles Lewis Tiffany.
The Tiffany Setting, for solitaire engagement rings, was just the beginning of what established the company’s design legacy. Louis Comfort Tiffany, the founder’s son, was a key figure in the Art Nouveau movement, and in 1902, became the first design director of Tiffany & Co. He brought his experience with glass to jewelry and used semi-precious jewels to re-create fruits and flowers in sparkling brooches and earrings. Later, in 1956, Jean Schlumberger became the company’s first named designer, and he brought a new sense of whimsy with nature-inspired pins and necklaces.
Throughout the years the company has worked with numerous artists, including Andy Warhol, but its most famous collaborations have been with long-time designers Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso and Frank Gehry. Tiffany has always been known for its silver craftsmanship—even winning a gold medal at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris—and Peretti’s passion for sterling silver introduced a new audience to fine jewelry made in this gleaming metal. Her abstract Bean and Open Heart necklaces—the first pieces of silver jewelry ever sold on the main floor of the fabled Fifth Avenue store—were immediate best sellers and remain favorite gifts years after they were first introduced. Picasso’s Xs, scribbles and zigzags in gold and brightly colored gemstones distinguish her designs for Tiffany, while Gehry’s architectural vision has given shape to unusual pieces in wood, gold and stone. These unique objects of beauty can also be worn with the proud knowledge that Tiffany sources its precious materials through socially and environmentally responsible means and is committed to conservation.
By simultaneously conveying tradition and relevance, and value and elegance, Tiffany has endured and flourished through good and bad economic times. In Truman Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly says that when she’s feeling down, “What I’ve found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany’s. It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it.” Her character speaks to the essence of Tiffany: a quiet, proud, true-blue institution and national treasure.