Tea time at Tiffany’s

The New York jeweler is moving to the Saatchi Gallery in London for a rich retrospective of 400 objects. The opportunity to (re)discover the many facets of a house always capable of reinventing itself with agility.

Just one hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Lewis Tiffany, whose store on Broadway prospered, decided to conquer Europe by opening his first addresses in London and Paris. Taking advantage of this anniversary, Tiffany & Co. is taking up summer quarters at the Saatchi Gallery with “Vision & Virtuosity”, an exhibition built like a journey through the codes of the New York jeweler. Mounted in 2019 at the Fosun Foundation in Shanghai, the retrospective then received, rightly, a very warm welcome. For its visit to London, it has been enriched with a new section, thus offering the visitor a journey made up of seven worlds. “’Vision & Virtuosity’ tells the extraordinary story of one of the oldest exceptional jewelers in the world, a nearly two hundred year history of pioneering creativity, legendary craftsmanship and acquisition of the most remarkable diamonds and stones”, summarizes Anthony Ledru, the president of the house.

From left to right and bottom to top, “Tiffany Setting” engagement ring in platinum set with a round diamond, necklace in yellow gold, emeralds and diamonds (1920-1925), the “Bon” cuff in yellow gold, a creation of Elsa Peretti (1970), “Dragonfly” brooch in gold, silver, diamonds and sapphires, a creation of George Paulding Farnham (1890-1900) and “Charles Tiffany Setting” men’s fillançailles ring in platinum set with a square diamond. – © TIFFANY & CO.

From the first store opened in New York by Charles Lewis Tiffany on September 21, 1837 (first day’s takings reaching $4.98) to Tiffany & Co., a company that today has 300 outlets and 13,000 employees, including 5,000 craftsmen, the history of the house is rich in collaborations. The Tiffany style is the result. Influential member of Art Nouveau, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the son of the founder, willingly colors his naturalist jewelry with enamel, opals, tourmalines or topaz. Joining Tiffany in 1956, the Alsatian designer Jean Schlumberger exercises his prodigious talent through jewels that have become legendary, starting with a ring mounted with sixteen stones or bracelets in paillonné enamel that Jackie Kennedy loves.

The fires of diamonds

The first copy of the Blue Book in 1845, an 1878 packing box and the screenplay for
The first copy of the Blue Book in 1845, an 1878 packing box and the screenplay for “Breakfast at Tyffany’s” annotated by Audrey Heburn. – © TIFFANY & CO.

The exhibition also presents the emblematic creations of Elsa Peretti, from the “Bone” cuff to the diamond in a bezel setting on a thin chain, without forgetting those of Paloma Picasso, who notably rehabilitated graffiti and stripped down the heart motif. The visitor then discovers the Blue Book. Published for the first time in 1845 under the name Catalog of Useful and Fancy Articles, it offers for sale by mail whips as well as confectionery… or wedding rings. Other times, other mores, the house then sends three models of rings, the client keeping the one that suits her best. Renamed in reference to the house’s signature robin’s egg blue, Blue Book now designates the high jewelry collection presented each year in New York.

The history of Tiffany was also written with the fires of diamonds – Charles Lewis Tiffany had been baptized “the king of diamonds” by the New York Times. The space reserved for solitaires is a reminder of this, from the iconic six-claw setting launched in 1886 to the most recent, the “Charles Tiffany Setting”, an engagement ring for men. Dedicated to the Blake Edwards film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961, Diamonds on the sofa in French), the next room offers a real teleportation to New York. The visitor discovers a moving document, the scenario annotated by Audrey Hepburn. “I’m just crazy about Tiffany’s! exclaims her character Holly Golightly in the film. How not to be in front of these cascades of carats deployed in the penultimate space preparing the visitor for the final face-to-face with the Tiffany Diamond, a fascinating cushion-cut yellow diamond of 128.54 carats.

“Vision & Virtuosity” exhibition, from June 10 to August 17 at the Saatchi Gallery, London. saatchigallery.com

Gabrielle de Montmorin

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