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Tracing the Cultural Significance of the Tiffany Blue

By Lynette Kee

The recreation of a Tiffany & Co. window display circa 2012.
Tiffany & Co.
The recreation of a Tiffany & Co. window display circa 2012.

In all mediums of communication, colour is a form that speaks intimately to the spiritual part of the human psyche. Its effects, though difficult to convey through physical language, are highly emotive. Take the luxury name of Tiffany & Co. for example, which uses colour as a fundamental element in its brand story. Since its inception in 1837, the American luxury jeweller has been inextricably linked to an iconic blue hue, which is now defined by the Pantone Colour Institute’s custom colour programme as “Tiffany Blue,” named after the brand name. The identity of “Tiffany Blue” first took form in its signature jewellery box. Its founder, Charles Lewis Tiffany, then went on to publish the company’s first Blue Book in 1845, the pages between the blue cover documented with some of the world’s most precious and rare gemstones. But it was not until 2001 when Tiffany & Co. finally officiated the light robin-egg blue as a legal asset in its own right. Today, the luxury jeweller continues to present its unwavering standard of luxury and beauty in its blue boxes.

The long-standing story of Tiffany & Co. has been told multiple times through the borrowed medium of cinema for decades — its name, in the critically acclaimed “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” represented a luxurious lifestyle beyond its material value. But this year, Tiffany’s rich narrative is getting retold in a new way that extends past its famous boxes and catalogue. Like every Tiffany box that opens to a world of timeless experience, Tiffany & Co. launched an immersive exhibition in Shanghai last month — aimed at transporting one into the storied past of Tiffany & Co. as chapters leading to the present, and into a future that continues to unfold.

Tiffany & Co.With cushion-cut aquamarines and round brilliant diamonds as his palette, Jean Schlumberger transformed the nature wonders into a leaves necklace.
With cushion-cut aquamarines and round brilliant diamonds as his palette, Jean Schlumberger transformed the nature wonders into a leaves necklace.

Titled “Vision & Virtuosity,” the brand notes in a press release that “Charles Lewis Tiffany was a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for the most extraordinary gemstones,” and his philosophy rooted in the belief that “life is enriched by living with exquisitely crafted beauty every day.” As a tribute to the brand’s legacy and ongoing success, Alessandro Bogliolo, CEO of Tiffany & Co. combined Tiffany’s vision and the brand’s over 180 years of masterful craftsmanship to create a dreamscape strewn with some of its greatest jewellery masterpieces.

The thematic journey of this exhibition — from the recreations of the famous Tiffany shop windows on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, to the documentation of “Tiffany’s first” such as the Tiffany Setting and the newly introduced Tiffany True engagement ring — follows the theme of its iconic shade of blue. A dedicated chapter “Blue is the Colour of Dreams” pays special homage to Tiffany’s legacy in discovering coloured gemstones.

In 1968, Tiffany introduced a never-seen-before unique blue stone discovered at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, and named it tanzanite (there was hardly any information on the stone then aside from its source), after the country of its origins. Tiffany & Co. soon cemented an achievement in history for being the first American jeweller to use tanzanites in its jewellery pieces. Over the years, the luxury jeweller sourced tirelessly for more unique gemstones and diamonds in hues that echo the rich ocean or the midnight sky. The late Gene Moore, one of Tiffany & Co.’s former creative directors, who was enamoured of the colour palette, created numerous works that showcased the beauty of the colour blue, elegantly pairing aquamarines, tanzanites, Montana sapphires and blue diamonds in the various jewellery pieces.

There is no doubt Tiffany & Co. has become a celebrated purveyor of luxury and style. Its jewellery pieces are loved by everyone from the British royal family to contemporary stars like Lady Gaga. Leveraging on its powerful brand codes, “Vision & Virtuosity” acts as a fond reminder that jewellery is often highly precious in part of how it makes us feel beyond its material value, especially when it comes in a little blue box.