Since the early years of its long illustrious run, Tiffany & Co.’s annual Blue Book has been a jewel in its glittering crown
Written by Jenn Thornton
If the iconic Tiffany & Co. Blue Box is an emblem of aspiration recognized throughout the world, then the brand’s Blue Book—a curated compendium of couture, one-of-a-kind jewels—is entirely of it. Brimming with bijoux, the annual publication is, like the iconic Tiffany Setting, truly timeless. Synonymous with uncompromising quality and craftsmanship, Blue Book collections are so pristine, so impeccably inspired, they never fail to cause a clamor among discerning jewelry connoisseurs across the globe. The precious, for the few.
The Blue Book emerged from the grander vision of Tiffany & Co. founder, Charles Lewis Tiffany, whose decision to establish a small “fancy goods” store in New York City in 1837, bankrolled with $1,000 from his father, proved an incredibly prosperous move. The store attracted the supreme of high society—the Vanderbilts, the Astors—eager to ornament themselves in the opulence of the Victorian era. Even Abraham Lincoln was a customer. The emporium grew in stature with a series of dazzling acquisitions, including the French crown jewels, their remarkable attainment helping crystallize Tiffany & Co.’s reputation as purveyor of the world’s finest diamonds, while Mr. Tiffany himself—undisputed ruler of his realm—was anointed the “King of Diamonds” by the New York Times.
To parade the house’s pieces de resistance to the public, Tiffany & Co. published its first Blue Book in 1845. The mail-order catalogue—the nation’s first—caused a sensation, its rarities, which included the diamonds of landed gentry, radiated an unmistakable air of exclusivity. From the 19th century, Tiffany gemologists searched far and wide for the best stones, procuring such talismans as the North Carolina emerald, Russia amethyst and African blue-violet tanzanite—gems that inspired many a Tiffany treasure, including a glittering homage to the jewelry of the Mughal Court in India in the 1920s.
“The most wonderful thing about the evolution of the Blue Book is that from 1845 till now, it’s really a time capsule that shows what the styles and trends are at the time,” says Melvyn Kirtley, chief gemologist and vice president of High Jewelry, Tiffany & Co. “Tiffany Blue Book designs are…embedded in the company’s DNA.”
Themed The Art of the Wild, the 2017 Blue Book takes its cues from exotica of the natural world. Each adornment in the 100-piece collection is of the utmost quality, with its centerpiece the 18k yellow gold with diamonds Whispers of the Rain Forest necklace. Worn to red-carpet glory by actress Jessica Biel at this year’s Oscars, this cascading bit of fantasia is a tribal-inspired neckpiece made modern.
Tiffany & Co.’s heritage has only richened, but its approach to jewelry remains the same. “We search in every corner of the world to find the most exquisite diamonds and gemstones…we’re not just looking for any species,” explains Kirtley. “We are always pushing the boundaries of innovation, and doing things we’ve never done before, working with different types of materials, finished and stone settings. We’re constantly pushing ourselves to create—and that is the masterful thing about Blue Book, all of these pieces are works of art.”