What Is Tiffany and Co

Topics: Louis Comfort Tiffany, Tiffany & Co., Charles Lewis Tiffany Pages: 12 (3923 words) Published: April 6, 2011
Incorporated: 1868
NAIC: 334518 Watch, Clock, and Part Manufacturing; 339911 Jewelry (except Costume) Manufacturing; 44831 Jewelry Stores SIC: 3873 Watches, Clocks, Watchcases & Parts; 3911 Jewelry & Precious Metal; 5944 Jewelry Stores

Founded in 1837, Tiffany & Co. has long been renowned for its luxury goods, especially jewelry, and has sought to market itself as an arbiter of taste and style. Tiffany designs, manufactures, and sells jewelry, watches, and crystal glassware. It also sells other timepieces, sterling silverware, china, stationery, fragrances, and accessories. Many of these products are sold under the Tiffany name, at Tiffany stores throughout the world as well as through direct-mail, corporate merchandising, and the Tiffany Web site. The company branched out in the early years of the new millennium, opening retail locations under the Temple St. Clair and Iridesse monikers. It also acquired a majority stake in Little Switzerland, a duty-free specialty retailer found the Caribbean, Alaska, and Florida.

Early History

In 1837 Charles Lewis Tiffany and John F. Young opened Tiffany & Young, with $1,000 in backing from Tiffany's father. Located on Broadway opposite Manhattan's City Hall Park, this store sold stationery and a variety of "fancy goods," including costume jewelry. Unlike other stores of the time, Tiffany featured plainly marked prices that were strictly adhered to, sparing the customer the usual practice of haggling with the proprietor. Tiffany also departed from the norm by insisting on cash payment rather than extending credit or accepting barter.

In 1841 Tiffany and Young took on another partner, J. L. Ellis, and the store became Tiffany, Young & Ellis. By 1845 the store was successful enough to discontinue paste (costume jewelry) and begin selling real jewelry, as well as the city's most complete line of stationery. Silverware was added in 1847. In addition to these main items, Tiffany's also sold watches and clocks, a variety of ornaments and bronzes, perfumes, preparations for the skin and hair, dinner sets, cuspidors, moccasins, belts, and numerous other sundries, including Chinese bric-a-brac and horse and dog whips.

The new partner's capital enabled Young to go to Paris as a buyer, and he later established a branch store there. When the French monarchy was overthrown in 1848, Young purchased some of the crown jewels and also a bejeweled corset reputed to belong to Marie Antoinette. A shrewd publicist, Tiffany was quick to exploit this coup. He teamed up with P. T. Barnum, to their mutual profit, on a number of ventures and presented a gem-studded miniature silver-filigree horse and carriage as a wedding present to Tom Thumb and his bride. He introduced sterling silver to the United States in 1852, a year after contracting John C. Moore to produce silverware exclusively for the company. In 1853 he bought out his partners, and the firm became Tiffany & Co.

During the Civil War, the company was an emporium for military supplies, producing swords and importing rifles and ammunition. During the Gilded Age that followed, its main problem was finding enough jewelry to satisfy overwhelming customer demand. By then it also had established dominance in the American silverware market. In 1868 a London branch store was added and Tiffany & Co. was incorporated, with its proprietor as president and treasurer. Also in that year, Moore's workshop became part of the firm. The store, which had been inching uptown with the city itself, moved into a newly constructed, company-owned building adjoining Union Square in 1870.

Tiffany's prestige reached a new level when the company won the gold medal for jewelry and grand prize for silverware at the Paris Exposition in 1878. Soon it was serving as a jeweler, goldsmith, and silversmith to most of the crowned heads of Europe. Its real clientele, however, came from the burgeoning ranks of America's wealthy, many with far more cash than taste....
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