Sunday, December 30, 2012


Byter Jess, cake maker extraordinaire, asked me to do an item on Tiffanys. I asked why and she said that she liked their fine jewellery and the colour of their boxes.  

So here we go. . .

“Time rolls on and youth is gone and you can't straighten up when you bend
But stiff back or stiff knees you stand straight at... Tiffany's..." 
- Lyric from Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend 

  • Tiffany & Co (usually shortened to Tiffany’s) was founded in 1837 by Charles Lewis Tiffany and Teddy Young in New York as a “stationery and fancy goods emporium”. The store sold mostly stationery and operated as Tiffany, Young and Ellis. 
Charles Lewis Tiffany 
  • In 1853 Charles Tiffany took control, shortened the name to Tiffany & Co and began the emphasis on fine jewellery. 
  • Some Tiffany innovations and notable items: 
       -  marking all goods with prices; 
       -  no haggling on prices; 
       -  cash only, no credit; 
       -  one of the first to publish its mail order catalogue (“The Blue Book”) in colour; 
  • Tiffany & Co was sold to Avon in 1978 for $104m. The new owners began stocking inexpensive items, so much so that Newsweek commented in 1984 that the store looked like Macy’s during a sale. There were also complaints from customers about declining quality and service. 
  • That same year, 1984, Avon sold Tiffany & Co to an investor group for $135m. The 1990 recession encouraged Tiffany’s to start mass merchandising and this was accompanied by advertising that a diamond ring was affordable to everyone. Rings were advertised from $850 but the image of exclusivity was maintained by displaying only luxury, high end items in the stores. 

“Come and trim my Christmas tree
With some decorations bought at Tiffany's
I really do believe in you
Let's see if you believe in me” 
- Lyric from Santa Baby 

  • Tiffany’s supplied the Union Army with swords, surgical implements and flags during the American Civil War. It also designed and manufactured various awards and honours for the military, including the Medal of Honour. 
  • In 1877 Tiffany’s designed and produced a medal of honour that was issued to the first New York City police officer shot in the line of duty. It featured the letters NY interlocked. In 1903 the Yankees baseball team moved from Boston to New York. As late as 1909 they were still called the New York Highlanders and were still seeking a signature insignia. That year Bill Devery, one of the club’s owners and a former NYC police chief, recalled the stylised NY that had appeared on the Tiffany medal of honour years earlier. The club adopted it and it remains the insignia of the club to the present day: 
Lou Gehrig, one of the NY Yankees’ past greats, in 1939. The uniform displays the Tiffany's stylised NY identification logo. 

“the best place in the world, where nothing bad can take place." 
- Holly Golightly in novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s 
by Truman Capote (1958) 

  • In 2004 Tiffany & Co sued ebay in respect of the sale of counterfeit items. Tiffany claimed that the online auctioneer aided violations of the Tiffany trademark by letting counterfeit items be sold on its web site. A study of certain pieces of "Tiffany" jewellery sold on eBay that year showed that 73% of the jewellery was counterfeit. The company felt that sale of shoddy merchandise marketed as Tiffany’s items harmed its reputation. The lawsuit asked that eBay be stopped from listing any "Tiffany" merchandise that is not genuine and for eBay to account for profits it made on the sale of counterfeit Tiffany merchandise or else pay up to $1 million for each type of fake Tiffany merchandise sold on the Web site. 
  • The Tiffany’s case was one of a number of cases in various countries that have attempted to define whether Internet-based service providers can be held liable for infringing conduct of their users. 
  • Unfortunately for Tiffany’s, it lost both the original case (2008) and the appeal (2010). 

“I don't want to own anything until I find a place where me and things go together. I'm not sure where that is but I know what it is like. It's like Tiffany's.”
- Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (film, 1961) 

  • Author Truman Capote envisioned Marilyn Monroe in the role of Holly Golightly when his novella was turned into a film. Monroe was cast in the role but her drama coach, Lee Strasberg, told Monroe that playing an escort/call girl would not be good for her image.  She pulled out of the film and the role was given to Audrey Hepburn who scored an Oscar nomination. 
  • Tiffany's opened its doors on a Sunday for the first time since the 19th century so that filming could take place inside the store. 
  • Steve McQueen was offered the co-starring role. However, he was still under contract for the show Wanted: Dead or Alive, which prevented him from appearing. The role eventually went to George Peppard. 

“Private Pyle you had best square your ass away and start shitting me Tiffany cufflinks or I will definitely fuck you up!” 
- Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, Full Metal Jacket 

  • From the Tiffany website: 
The color known as Tiffany Blue was selected by founder Charles Lewis Tiffany for the cover of Blue Book, Tiffany’s annual collection of exquisitely handcrafted jewels, first published in 1845. Also referred to as robin’s-egg blue or forget-me-not blue, this distinctive color may have been chosen because of the popularity of the turquoise gemstone in 19th-century jewellery. Turquoise was also a favorite of Victorian brides who gave their attendants a dove-shaped brooch of turquoise as a wedding day memento. 
 Tiffany Blue was later adopted for use on shopping bags, as well as in advertising and other promotional materials. True to the founder’s vision, the Tiffany Blue Box® became an icon of luxury and exclusivity. As The New York Sun reported in 1906, 
(Charles Lewis) Tiffany has one thing in stock that you cannot buy of him for as much money as you may offer; he will only give it to you. And that is one of his boxes. The rule of the establishment is ironclad, never to allow a box bearing the name of the firm, to be taken out of the building except with an article which has been sold by them and for which they are responsible. 
 Charles Tiffany’s coveted box is today an international icon of elegance and sophistication. On a more personal level, it is a certain sign that a magical moment has arrived. The box may reveal a dazzling diamond ring that changes the course of love; or it may honor a personal achievement, a birthday or an anniversary. 
Glimpsed on a busy street or resting in the palm of a hand, the Tiffany Blue Box® evokes happy thoughts of the present that will be opened with the greatest pleasure. 
  • Because the particular blue used by Tiffany’s is protected as a colour trademark, it is not publicly available. 
Tiffany bonus item: 

A lady walks into Tiffany’s. She looks around, spots a beautiful diamond bracelet and walks over to inspect it. 

As she bends over to look more closely, she lets out a fart. 

Very embarrassed, she looks around nervously to see if anyone has noticed her little accident and prays that a sales person doesn’t pop up right now. 

As she turns around, her worst nightmare materializes in the form of a salesman standing right behind her. 

Cool as a cucumber, he displays all of the qualities one would expect of a professional salesman in a store like Tiffany’s. He greets the lady with, ‘Good day, Madam. How may we help you today?’ 

Feeling uncomfortable, but still hoping that the salesman may not have been there at the time of her little ‘accident’, she asks, ‘Sir, what is the price of this lovely bracelet?’ 

He answers, ‘Madam, if you farted just looking at it, you’re going to shit when I tell you the price!’ 

There you go, Jess, hope you enjoyed it. 



After preparing the above item but before posting it on Bytes, some further things happened concerning Tiffany’s that deserve mention: 


Jess had asked me some months ago to do a piece on Tiffany’s and it was an item I planned to get around to. I tackled it in the early hours of Saturday morning, that was when I sent a text message to Jess asking her what was special for her about Tiffany’s and she responded that it was their fine jewellery and the colour of the box. The only thing I knew about Tiffany’sliked to have breakfast there in the famous film. I had no knowledge of Tiffany boxes, much less the colour thereof or its significance. Since writing about the signature Tiffany blue colour I have found out that the perfectly tied white bows are also an integral part of Tiffany’s packaging: 


Which leads to Item 2. Unbeknownst to me, I had chosen the same time to write about Tiffany’s as Jess was making a cake for my wife, Kate’s, birthday that same Saturday. Jess gave Kate her cake after we all came back from seeing Les Miserables (loved it!!!), and no need to second guess what the cake was: 

Superb, Jess, and very caring. Thanks. :-)


Jess, it turns out, has a Tiffany’s charm bracelet and she asked me to find out why the heart charms have “Return to Tiffany & Co New York) embossed on their backs, as well as the number 925. A little bit more research revealed that: 
  • The number .925 indicates .925 sterling silver. 
  • I have read quite a number of references to the return message and they tend to fall into two categories: one that says that since 1969 the message has been accompanied by an embossed registration number so that when returned to Tiffany’s if lost (yeah, right!), Tiffany’s will be able to contact the owner; the other says that these days the message is a continuation of the past registration system but without the number, so that it is a branding device. Not sure which is correct. 

Something else that I was not aware of is that Tiffany’s rigidly follows the protocols for the ethical acquisition of diamonds. Those who have seen the Di Caprio movie Blood Diamond will know the sad and horrific circumstances that accompany the mining and sale of diamonds in African war zones, the money therefrom financing conflicts, warlords and diamond companies. These diamonds are also known as conflict diamonds. The ethical sourcing of the diamonds by Tiffany’s contributes to the higher cost of the jewellery.


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