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Tiffany & Co. (American)
Tiffany & Co. remains the largest luxury-item retailer in the world, offering sterling silver, jewelry, crystal, china, stationery, leather goods, and fragrances. In 1837, Charles L. Tiffany and John B. Young opened “Tiffany & Young” in New York City as a “fancy goods emporium” which sold stationery, European decorative objects, Chinese pottery and umbrellas, desks, and silver. Major silver manufacturers, such as Grosjean & Woodward, William Gale, Gorham, and John C. Moore, supplied the flatware and hollowware selections, and by the mid-1850s, “Tiffany, Young & Ellis” (renamed in 1841 with the addition of partner J.L. Ellis) had become the leading silver retailer in New York. In 1852, the company began utilizing the English sterling silver standard, which was later adopted by the U.S. government as the American standard. In 1853, Tiffany bought out his partners to build the jewelry arm of the firm, at which point “Tiffany & Co.” was officially born.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, Tiffany & Co., or “Tiffany,” became an arsenal for the North, producing swords, flags, uniforms, and surgical instruments, and supplying rifles and ammunition from Europe. By the end of the 1860s, the firm was creating its own silver designs – bowls, pitchers, tea services, and other tableware -- for which it received major recognition, including an award for excellence in silverware at the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle and the gold medal for jewelry and the silver prize for silverware at this Exposition in 1878. Wealthy U.S. families, such as the Astors, Vanderbilts, Morgans, and Posts, purchased silver and diamonds from Tiffany, and, beyond this hefty endorsement, the company broadened its sales through a mail order catalog, the “Blue Book,” first published in 1845. When Charles L. Tiffany died in 1902, his son, Louis Comfort Tiffany, became the firm’s first official Design Director.
Tiffany solidified its position as both a team-playing American company and an international tastemaker during the twentieth century. With the onset of WW I and WW II, the firm again turned its attention to the war effort by manufacturing airplane parts and surgical instruments. 1940 saw the opening of Tiffany’s new and now legendary store on 5th Avenue, structured like a grand ballroom with special lighting to offset the silver and jewelry. During the post-War decades, Tiffany’s president Walter Hoving brilliantly increased sales by reaching out to a broader customer base: he hired famous designers to create products for the store -- for example, silver jewelry by Frank Gehry, Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso, and Jean Schlumberger and stationery by Andy Warhol – and he opened Tiffany stores internationally. Today, Tiffany operates in twenty-two countries and nets sales of over $3.6 billion.
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