Long before Marilyn Monroe sang “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” or Audrey Hepburn stared longingly into the window from a deserted Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co. was influencing American culture. In September 1837, Charles Lewis Tiffany borrowed $1,000 from his father, and with his school friend John B. Young, opened a stationary and fancy goods store in New York City. Its first day’s sales were $4.98. In the 1840s, Tiffany & Co. began buying diamonds and a decade later the company became one of the word’s leading silversmiths. It supplied the Union Army in the Civil War and in the late 19th century decorated a series of Colt, Winchester and Smith & Wesson handguns. Tiffany & Co. was already a famous institution when Tiffany began selling items in the “Tiffany blue” box. “Tiffany has one thing in stock that you cannot buy of him for as much money as you may offer,” the New York Sun wrote in 1906. “He will only give it to you. And that is one of his boxes.” A visit to the flagship store on Fifth Avenue, established in 1940, has become a rite of passage for young women visiting New York City and grooms-to-be of all ages delivering their proposal and a ring via one of those famous blue boxes. It’s no guarantee of a yes, but it’s not a bad way to start.
Fashion Icons: Tiffany & Co.
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