7 Things We Learned from the New Documentary Crazy About Tiffany’s
By Erika Berlin
Tiffany & Co. has been around for nearly 180 years, and as Matthew Miele—director of the new documentary Crazy About Tiffany's—points out to mental_floss, it continues to be one of America's most iconic brands. Much like in his 2013 documentary, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's, Miele sought to bring the history and cultural relevance of this quintessential luxury brand into focus. "Both Tiffany and Bergdorf's are so cultivated and finely honed with their images, colors, fonts, and ubiquity," Miele says. "Their relevance maintains because they refine their image every week. They are both so attuned to the changing times and shifting attitudes that they always stay 12 steps ahead."
Crazy About Tiffany's—named for Holly Golighty's famously fawning line in the movie that has become synonymous with the store—is out in select theaters and on VOD today.
1. TIFFANY’S OWNS THAT SHADE OF BLUE.
In the 1850s, right around the time Tiffany’s opened its first Paris location, founder Charles Lewis Tiffany foresaw a huge trend and jumped on it early. France’s Empress Eugénie, who was the leading fashion icon of her day, had chosen a shade of light blue as her official color. Tiffany, realizing that hue would soon be an international sensation, immediately made robin’s egg blue its company-wide branding color. The bold, pretty tint became known as Tiffany Blue, and more than a century later, Pantone patented that specific shade for Tiffany’s. The exact formula is a closely guarded secret, but the name—Pantone No. 1837—is a nod to the company’s founding year. "It is a remarkable thing to have trademarked so long ago," Miele says, "and an even greater feat to keep its recipe a secret."
2. CHARLES TIFFANY INVENTED THE MAILED SHOPPING CATALOG.
Think the first mail-order catalog was an old Sears, Roebuck & Co. one? Nope; Tiffany’s Blue Book predates Sears, Roebuck’s Big Book by nearly 50 years. Charles Tiffany started sending out his mailer in 1845, and the book has become a way to advertise the company’s rarest and most exclusive jewels, as well as to introduce new collections in their fashion jewelry and watch lines.
3. ONLY TWO WOMEN HAVE EVER WORN "THE TIFFANY DIAMOND."
In 1878, Charles Tiffany bought an enormous, rough yellow diamond. Once cut into its classic cushion-shape brilliant, the stone weighed in at an impressive 128.54 carats, and his owning it solidified Tiffany’s reputation as the world’s premier jeweler.
The Tiffany Diamond has only been set in new pieces five times, and only worn twice. Once by lucky Newport socialite Mrs. Sheldon Whitehouse at a 1957 fundraising ball co-sponsored by Tiffany’s (Mrs. Whitehouse was chairwoman of the event), and the second time by Audrey Hepburn. While doing negotiations with Paramount to film 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s in its flagship store, Tiffany’s was granted a photo shoot with Hepburn modeling a number of jewels—including the Jean Schlumberger-designed Ribbon Rosette necklace. Since then, the stone has been reset in one of Schlumberger's classic Bird on a Rock settings [PDF], and in its current necklace mounting.
4. TIFFANY'S INVENTED THE MODERN ENGAGEMENT RING.
Before the diamond boom of the late 1800s, simple or engraved engagement rings were more common—if a ring was given at all (the Puritans had a practice of giving thimbles, which were considered more practical and didn't give into the vanity of jewelry). When diamonds were used, the bezel setting, which kept the stone low and flat in the hoop (think of a signet ring design) was most popular. Then Charles Tiffany decided to show off the brilliance of his diamonds. In 1886, he raised the diamond off of the ring's hoop, creating the six-prong mounting that is now ubiquitous with solitaire engagement settings.
5. NEW YORK'S GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL HAS THE WORLD'S LARGEST TIFFANY CLOCK.
Louis Comfort Tiffany (Charles's son) was trained in painting and glasswork, and expanded the family business with his much-sought-after lamps, chandeliers, and stained glass, first with his own glassmaking firm and then later as the first Design Director at Tiffany & Co. (The hard-to-please design genius Steve Jobs was such a fan of Louis Tiffany's work that he once took his entire Macintosh team to a Tiffany exhibition for inspiration on how to mass-produce great art.) But some pieces that Tiffany designed were one-of-a-kind, like the enormous clock he made for Grand Central Terminal in 1914. The clock—with its vibrant red and white Roman numerals and blue and yellow sunburst design—still has all of its original gears and parts, is still accurate, and is the largest example of Tiffany's glasswork in the world.
6. TIFFANY'S CREATED THE FAMOUS NEW YORK YANKEES INSIGNIA.
"One of the smallest but most profound details I enjoyed discovering was their design of the most famous insignia in sports," Miele says. He's talking about the interlocking NY that the Yankees have used for a century. Back in 1877, Louis Comfort Tiffany designed and created a silver-plated medal of valor to be given to New York's first police officer injured in the line of duty, and the 'NY' insignia connected the medallion to the pin. One of the Yankees' first team co-owners, William Devery, was also New York City's first Chief of Police, and thus would have been aware of the design. It first appeared on Yankees uniforms in 1909, and has been a staple of the pinstripe look ever since.
7. THE SONG "BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S" DEFINITELY WANTED TO CAPITALIZE ON THE NAME.
Songwriter Todd Pipes and his band Deep Blue Something were very calculated when it came to writing their one big hit. "I thought if I could get that phrase 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' into a song, that people might like it," Pipes says in the film. "It's a weird song. There's almost nothing poetic about it." It worked though. Between the song's catchy melody and its invoking of a beloved movie and brand, not only in the lyrics but in the video (the band all meets for a champagne breakfast in the middle of Fifth Avenue right outside Tiffany's, and near the end, an Audrey Hepburn lookalike gives the group a prolonged glance on her way down the street), this 1995 single was the band's only song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100.