Founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany and John B. Young in New York City in 1837 as a “stationery and fancy goods emporium”, the store initially sold a wide variety of stationery items, and operated as “Tiffany, Young and Ellis” in Lower Manhattan. The name was shortened to Tiffany & Company in 1853 when Charles Tiffany took control and established the firm’s emphasis on jewelry. Tiffany & Company has since opened stores in major cities all over the world. Unlike other stores at the time in the 1830s, Tiffany clearly marked the prices on its goods to forestall any haggling over prices. In addition, against the social norm at the time, Tiffany only accepted cash payments, and did not accept payments on credit.
The first Tiffany’s mail order catalog, known as the “Blue Book,” was published in 1845 in the United States ; and publishing of the catalog continues in the 21st century. In 1862, Tiffany & Company supplied the Union Army with swords , flags and surgical implements. In 1867, Tiffany & Co. was the first US firm to win an award for the excellence in silverware at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. In 1868, Tiffany was incorporated.
In 1870 the company built a new store building at 15 Union Square West, Manhattan, designed by John Kellum and costing $500,000. It was described by The New York Times as a “palace of jewels”. Tiffany stayed at this site until 1906.
In 1877, an insignia that would become the famous New York Yankees “NY” logo was struck on a police medal of honor by Tiffany & Company—the Yankees adopted the logo in 1909. In 1878, Tiffany won the gold medal for jewelry and a grand prize for silverware at the Paris Exposition, which gave the Tiffany brand name added prestige. In 1887, Tiffany bought the French Crown Jewels which attracted publicity and further solidified the Tiffany brand’s connection to quality diamonds. The company revised the Great Seal of the United States in 1885. In 1902, after the death of Charles Lewis Tiffany, his son, Louis Comfort Tiffany became the company’s first official Design Director.
In 1919, the company made a revision to the Medal of Honor on behalf of the United States Department of the Navy. This “Tiffany Cross” version was rare because it was awarded only for combat, using the previous design for non-combat awards. In 1942 the Navy established the Tiffany version for non-combat heroism, but in August 1942 the Navy eliminated the Tiffany Cross and the two-medal system. In 1956, legendary designer Jean Schlumberger joined Tiffany, and Andy Warhol collaborated with Tiffany to create Tiffany Holiday Cards .
In 1968 Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady of the U.S. at the time, commissioned Tiffany to design a White House china-service that featured 90 flowers. In November 1978, Tiffany & Co. was sold to Avon Products Inc. for about US$104 million in stock. However, in a 1984 Newsweek article, the Fifth Avenue Tiffany store was likened to the Macy’s department store during a white sale due to the high number of inexpensive items on sale; furthermore, customers complained about declining quality and service. In August 1984, Avon sold Tiffany to an investor group led by William R. Chaney for US$135.5 million in cash. Tiffany became public again in 1987 and raised about US$103.5 million from the sale of 4.5 million shares of common stock.
Due to the 1990–1991 recession in the United States, Tiffany commenced an emphasis upon mass merchandising. A new campaign was launched that stressed how Tiffany could be affordable for all; for example, the company advertised that the price of diamond engagement rings started at US$850. “How to Buy a Diamond” brochures were sent to 40,000 people who called a toll-free number specifically set up to target the broader population. However, to maintain its image as a luxury goods company, high-style images remained on display in Tiffany stores.
In 2000, The Tiffany & Company Foundation was established to provide grants to nonprofit organizations working in the areas of the environment and the arts. In June 2004, Tiffany sued eBay, claiming that the latter was making profits from the sale of counterfeit Tiffany products; however, Tiffany lost both at trial and on appeal.
On January 28, 2008, a collaboration between the Japanese mobile-phone operator SoftBank and Tiffany & Co. was announced. The two companies designed a cellphone, limited to ten copies, and containing more than 400 diamonds, totaling more than 20 carats . Each cellphone cost more than 100,000,000 yen.
A media report in early July 2013 revealed that former Tiffany & Company vice president Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun was arrested and charged with stealing more than $US1.3 million of diamond bracelets, drop earrings, and other jewellery. According to prosecutors from Manhattan, U.S., the official charges are “wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property.”