With Tiffany & Co. now open in Auckland, Victoria Tait provides an overview of this incredible brand’s history and speaks with Glen Schlehuber, vice president and managing director of Tiffany & Co. Oceania, about what we can expect to see in New Zealand.
In 1837, 25-year-old Charles Lewis Tiffany opened a “stationery and fancy goods” in New York City with his school friend John B. Young. The growing business quickly developed a reputation for fine goods, especially Bohemian glass and porcelain, and began the manufacture of its own jewellery. Sixteen years on, Charles Tiffany took full control of the company, renamed it Tiffany & Company (1853), and established the firm’s emphasis on jewellery.
With natural talent, Charles Tiffany lead the company through the next 60 years of undeniable success. Tiffany was first recognised at the 1867 Paris World’s Fair, at which the company was awarded the grand prize for silver craftsmanship; a first for an American design house. In 1878, Tiffany acquired one of the world’s largest and finest yellow diamonds. The diamond was cut from 287.42 carats to 128.54 carats with 82 facets, which gave the stone its legendary fire and brilliance. Named the Tiffany Diamond, the stone became an exemplar of Tiffany craftsmanship.
Today and throughout history, Tiffany & Co has attracted the most prominent members of society from the Vanderbilts and Whitneys to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Elizabeth Taylor. Our modern-day screen stars, such as Cate Blanchett, Kate Hudson and Jessica Biel, have been all seen adorned in Tiffany diamonds.
In 1886, Tiffany introduced the engagement ring as we know it today. This famous ring was named the Tiffany Setting. It was so popular even a young Franklin Roosevelt purchased a Tiffany engagement ring in 1904.
With the death of Charles Lewis Tiffany in 1902, his son Louis Comfort Tiffany – a highly skilled artisan – became Tiffany’s first director of design and set up the Tiffany Artistic Jewellery department in the Fifth Avenue store.
Glen Schlehuber, vice president and managing director of Tiffany’s Oceania, gives us the inside word on all things Tiffany today.
How many Tiffany & Co. stores are there now worldwide?
There are more than 300 Tiffany stores worldwide, with the number growing each month. There are currently nine stores in Australia and, as you know, one in Auckland, New Zealand.
What can we expect to see at the New Zealand store?
There are many special qualities to the location at Britomart, from the impressive façade and heritage architecture of our building to the grand interior and ceiling height within the store. Inside the store, Tiffany architects and designers have created a modern and impressive store to showcase an array of renowned Tiffany & Co. collections. Store highlights include handpainted glass magnolia patterns in the fine and bridal salons. The store will be a significant size and will house a comprehensive selection of our iconic collections, as well as offering luxury customer services.
What made now the time to open in New Zealand? Was it difficult to find the right building?
We have been looking at the New Zealand market for a number of years as we have very loyal New Zealand customers shopping with us in Australia. For us, it was really a matter of finding the right location and environment for our brand. Britomart represents a great opportunity to place Tiffany & Co. in a prime location within an environment that exudes energy, style and sophistication – the same qualities that make Tiffany & Co. the most sought-after luxury brand in the world.
How does a jewellery brand maintain its identity for almost 180 years?
Tiffany has always been a company of great innovators, great dreamers who are constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with design. This frame of mind links directly back to the company’s founder, Charles Lewis Tiffany, who was an entrepreneur long before anyone even knew what that term meant. He was a risk taker, someone who constantly did things no one else had the courage to try. At Tiffany, we carry forward that spirit of risk and vision.
Is there a collection you are excited about?
Tiffany offers such a diverse collection. One of my favourite collections is the Tiffany T collection. I enjoy the simple but iconic design of this collection. I also love the Tiffany CT60 watch collection. My CT60 has a navy blue dial with a navy blue strap. It is a great-looking timepiece; I get a lot of comments on it.
How would you describe the style of a Tiffany woman?
The Tiffany woman has a spring in her step. She makes her own rules, and she doesn’t conform. Tiffany & Co. is first and foremost modern and makes no apologies for that. It’s for the cool girl about town who’s well-informed and has a handle on what’s happening, what’s now. She’s clever and smart and is very certain of herself and her style.
In your opinion, what is a piece every woman should have?
I would suggest the Tiffany T-Square Cuff; it is such an iconic piece of jewellery that will stand the test of time in design and can be worn stacked every day with your existing wardrobe.
Can you tell us more about Tiffany & Co.’s sustainability policy?
As a leader in the luxury industry, we recognise the opportunity we have to influence culture and set the standards for excellence – not only in fine jewellery and craftsmanship but also in what it means to be a responsible corporate citizen. We have implemented a vertical integration model that gives us a strong chain of custody, direct oversight of our manufacturing and a voice for improving global standards and conditions.
Since its inception in 1837, Tiffany & Co. has been guided by the belief that a successful company has a responsibility to the greater community. The Tiffany & Co. Foundation was established in 2000 to focus the company’s philanthropic endeavours. Through its three environment programmes, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation seeks to preserve the world’s most treasured landscapes and seascapes.
Can you tell us about one thing people would be surprised to know about Tiffany & Co.?
We have the strictest standards in regards to the manufacturing of our jewellery, which is predominantly manufactured in-house in our workshops in the United States. The fact that Tiffany & Co. only accepts 0.04% of the world’s gem-grade diamonds means our customers are confident they are getting the best of the best.