Diamonds Through the Decades: The History of Tiffany & Co’s Jewelry Evolution
When Charles Lewis Tiffany launched his first store in New York City in 1837, his focus was on stationery and paper goods. It’s ironic, then, that his son, Louis Comfort Tiffany, in taking over the company, would turn the emphasis to diamonds in the early 1990s. While styles have changed quite a bit since the 19th century, Tiffany & Co.’s magnetism, luxury, and craftsmanship still attract visitors to its stores across the globe, including the brick-and-mortar location at Rockefeller Center.
For most people, though, the mention of Tiffany & Co. brings forth images of Audrey Hepburn standing in a black dress, coffee and pastry in hand, as she stares at the windows of the company’s Fifth Avenue flagship store. October 5, 2021, marks the 60th anniversary of the iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s film, adapted from Truman Capote’s 1958 novella. In the film’s opening scene, Hepburn, as Holly Golightly, arrives at Tiffany & Co. in the early hours of the morning to marvel at the store’s window displays. Hepburn wears long black gloves, her hair in an updo, with oversized sunglasses on her head and oversized pearls around her neck.
To celebrate the six decades since the release of the fan-favorite film, we’re taking a look back at some of the jewelry styles and major moments that have defined the brand since Hepburn’s unforgettable stint as Holly Golightly.
1956: Just five years before Breakfast at Tiffany’s was released, legendary designer Jean Schlumberger joined the jewelry house as lead designer.
Schlumberger was known for his fanciful designs, often inspired by the natural world. While many of his iconic pieces remain staples of the company’s collection — such as the stackable bracelets adored by Jackie O. and his lauded Bird On A Rock brooches.
Pictured: Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger Bird on a Rock Brooch
1974: Jewelry designer Elsa Peretti joins Tiffany & Co., introducing a look that captured the bohemian trends of the moment.
Her sculptural designs made sterling silver popular and her Diamonds by the Yard® collection introduced wearable, everyday diamond pieces. While you can still buy an Elsa Peretti Bean® pendant, originally designed over 30 years ago, you can now trace the origins of each diamond from mine to manufacturer to storefront.
Pictured: Tiffany & Co. Elsa Peretti® Diamonds by the Yard® drop earrings
1980: Paloma Picasso launches her first Tiffany collection; her jewelry mirrors a style standard of a new decade: excess.
Picasso drew inspiration from New York City street art and graffiti, and her aesthetic was gritty and graphic.
Pictured: Various pieces from the Tiffany & Co. Paloma's Studio collection
1980-2009: Design Director John Loring leaves an ever-lasting mark on the overall look and feel of both the brand and its jewelry collections.
If you’ve ever admired the Tiffany & Co. stores, the classic Atlas wristwatch, or just the overall elegance and simplicity of its pieces, you have John Loring to thank for that. During his decades-long career at Tiffany & Co., Loring led the brand into a successful 21st century.
Pictured: Tiffany & Co. Atlas® Wristwatch
2014: Tiffany & Co. ushers in a new era with the debut of its Tiffany T collection.
In describing the new styles, Francesca Amfitheatrof, design director at the time, stated, “the design pays tribute to the Tiffany name, but there’s also a verticality and intensity to the letter itself that I associate with the energy and optimism of New York. And there is a lot of New York in Tiffany T. This is a place of courage and reinvention that constantly sparks creativity.”
Pictured: Tiffany & Co. Tiffany T square bracelet
2020: In 2020, the company debuts a new version of the T collection, T1.
Today, Tiffany & Co. may be the world’s oldest major jewelry brand, but its legacy is one of timelessness — just like the 1961 movie starring Audrey Hepburn.
Pictured: Various pieces from the Tiffany & Co. T1 collection
Have your own Breakfast at Tiffany’s moment at the Tiffany & Co. concept store at 610 Fifth Avenue, open Monday through Saturday 10 am to 6 pm and Sunday from 12 pm to 5 pm.