A History of Tiffany Jewelry Design

Learn About Tiffany's Fine Jewelry Designers

Sell a Tiffany Diamond Ring At Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers, we purchase previously-owned Tiffany jewelry every day from clients throughout the United States. Fine jewelry made by Tiffany & Co. is among the most popular items on the estate jewelry market–which is not a surprise considering Tiffany’s stature as America’s oldest and most prestigious fine jewelry brand.

Tiffany and Company was founded in 1837 as a New York “fancy goods” store that sold stationery, novelty imported goods, and a small selection of jewelry. Fame arrived in 1848, when co-founder Charles Lewis Tiffany traveled to Paris and obtained a large cache of diamonds from Parisian nobles fleeing France’s second revolution. He was subsequently dubbed the “king of diamonds” by the New York press.

Tiffany & Co. quickly established itself as the leader of a new “American style” of jewelry that broke away from the mannered opulence and ceremonial patterns of the old European design aesthetic. Inspired by the natural world, Tiffany designs highlighted simplicity, harmony and clarity.

Earliest Tiffany Jewelry

Although the diamonds from France marked the first appearance of major gemstones in the United States and helped make Tiffany & Co. synonymous with jewelry, it was a publicity coup capitalizing on the laying of the Atlantic telegraph cable in 1858 that cemented Tiffany’s in the public imagination.

C.L. Tiffany bought 20 miles of extra cable from the project, and had four inch lengths fashioned into watch charms, pendants, paperweights and cane handles. On the day the souvenirs went on sale, (some for as little as 50 cents), police were summoned to control the crowds anxious to own a piece of history.

Despite his success with the souvenirs, Tiffany was increasingly associated with fine jewelry for elite clientele, including a famous seed-pearl necklace worn by Mary Todd Lincoln at her husband’s 1861 inauguration. Then in 1886, Tiffany introduced diamond rings with the famous Tiffany setting.

With brilliant simplicity and efficiency, the Tiffany setting anchors a single diamond to a plain band by six exposed prongs. This iconic setting lifts the stone off the band and into the light, highlighting brilliant cut diamonds and allowing them to show their true fire and radiance. The famous Tiffany setting remains the most popular diamond engagement ring setting to this day.

Tiffany Designer: Edward C. Moore

As early as the late 1860s, Tiffany & Co. was well established as one of the world’s leading silversmiths, thanks to Edward C. Moore, the jewelry design director and head of the silversmith workshop. Under his direction, Tiffany designers studied artifacts and jewelry objects from all over the world, and Europe began to take notice of the resulting designs.

Moore’s jewelry designs helped Tiffany win its first international award for silver in Paris in 1867, and when Tiffany won gold medals at the 1878 and 1889 Paris International Expositions, Moore received most of the credit. Moore’s works included “Japanesque” jewelry and archaeological revival pieces based on ancient Cypriot jewelry.

Tiffany Designer: Paulding Farnham

Colored Gemstones Joining Tiffany & Co.’s design department in 1885 at age 26, G. Paulding Farnham became a student of Edward Moore. He distinguished himself as an artist in his own right, eventually becoming Tiffany’s preeminent nineteenth century jeweler. He made major contributions to the winning designs of 1889, and in 1900 was the main designer responsible for Tiffany’s Grand Prize triumph at the Paris Exhibition.

Farnham’s work included enameled and bejewelled orchids whose dimensions and details were uncompromisingly faithful to the originals. The French critics were also impressed by the variety of design sources he employed, which included Native American pottery; Louis XIV, XV, and XVI fashions; and Japanese and East-Indian jewelry.

Though Farnham’s design genius is well recognized in its own right, his association with gemologist George Kunz contributed in no small measure to his success. A young Kunz had succeeded in impressing C.L. Tiffany with an exquisite green tourmaline in 1875, which gave birth to the modern market for colored stones (see 14+ carat tsavorite ring above). Dr. Kunz went on to become the resident gem expert for Tiffany & Co., providing Farnham with a palette of fantastically colored stones, including conch pearls, pink topaz, demantoid garnet, Mexican fire opals, Montana sapphires, and turquoise from Arizona.

Farnham employed these richly colored gems in much of his work, and his orchid brooch series remains one of the most iconic Tiffany collections. Despite his success, Farnham was ousted from his position in 1902 when Lewis Comfort (L.C.) Tiffany officially assumed the role as director of design after his father’s death.

Tiffany Designer: Louis Comfort Tiffany

Nature Jewelry With a professional background in watercolor painting and interior design, L. C. Tiffany also created objets d’art, lamps, pottery, and stained glass. His pieces were quite well received, including a Grand Prize at Paris’s International Exhibition in 1900. But when he began work at Tiffany’s jewelry design department, he had not yet begun to work with jewelry.

His talents quickly translated to the new medium. As an American designer working in the Art Nouveau style, his jewelry employed organic motifs, but with a distinctly American perspective. He depicted native blackberries, dandelions, and butterflies (see above) in his works—using gold, platinum, mixed metals, enamels, and a variety of colored gemstones to capture the beauty of natural world he saw around him.

While his designs were inspired primarily by nature, he was also influenced by Etruscan, Egyptian, and Moorish art which he had studied as a young man while traveling abroad.

Tiffany Jewelry Design in the 20th Century

bracelets As the 20th century progressed, Tiffany & Co. designers continued to reflect the essence of the times, from the art deco styles of the roaring twenties to the modernism of the 1930s to the aerodynamic age of the late 1940s, 1950s and beyond. As in the past, Tiffany designers also drew inspiration from nature. Newly discovered gemstones and precious metal combinations allowed for fresh interpretations of classic themes.

In 1955, Tiffany & Co. hired designer Jean Schlumberger, who got his start crafting unique buttons for famed Parisian courtier Elsa Schiaparelli. His works included many interpretations of natural forms, including sea creatures and other animals. His inspired use of brightly colored enamels and colored stones made him a favorite of the world’s most glamorous women, including Jacqueline Kennedy, who wore so many of Schlumberger’s bracelets (see examples above) that the press dubbed them “Jackie bracelets.”

In addition to Schlumberger, Tiffany & Co. continued to seek out visionary designers, including Elsa Peretti, whose elegantly simple work transformed jewelry design in the 1970s. Her organic, sensual forms, including the snake and the apple, are informed by her keen interest in detail and her sensibility as a sculptor.

Paloma Picasso joined Tiffany in 1980. Her works draw on the world around her, combining European sophistication with influences ranging from architecture to sunsets and landscapes, to even the graffiti of New York. Modern, chic, and geometric, while still boldly colorful, Paloma Picasso’s designs continue to enchant.

Continued Innovation in Tiffany Jewelry Design

Throughout its history, Tiffany’s designers have employed their unique artistic sensibilities to transform aspects of the natural world into timeless designs of wearable art, while continuing to innovate in both design and materials. For the observance of their 175th anniversary in 2012, Tiffany released a collection of jewelry fashioned from Rubedo, a newly minted alloy of copper and gold. These pieces continue the long tradition of innovation and simple elegance that has been the hallmark of Tiffany design since 1837.

If you own Tiffany & Co. jewelry that you would like to sell for a generous price, please contact Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers today for a free appraisal and immediate cash offer. Or proceed to the following link to learn more: How to Sell Tiffany Jewelry.

Call us toll free at: (800) 956-8505