Charles Lewis Tiffany was born February 15, 1812 in Killingly, Connecticut.
His father owned a cotton manufacturing company, and he grew up working in the office of his father’s mill.
Then, around the age of 15, Charles helped manage a small general store also started by his father.
Tiffany & Young
On September 18, 1837, Charles Tiffany along with school friend John Young, set up a small stationery, gift shop and fancy goods emporium in New York City.
Charles had borrowed $1,000 from his father to fund the venture.
Their first three days of business as Tiffany & Young brought in a total of $4.38 in sales.
They hung in there, and eventually began selling glassware, porcelain, cutlery, clocks and jewelry.
On November 30, 1839, Charles Tiffany married John Young’s sister, Harriet Olivia Avery Young. The couple would go on to have six children.
Unlike other stores at the time, Tiffany & Young clearly marked prices on its goods to forestall any haggling.
In addition, against the social norm at the time, Tiffany & Young only accepted cash payments, and did not accept payments on credit.
The store expanded in 1841 and changed its name to Tiffany, Young and Ellis.
It established a reputation for selling only the finest goods and specialized in Bohemian glass and porcelain.
Charles Tiffany also became known for his jewelry expertise.
In 1850, they opened a branch store in Paris, France.
In 1851, Tiffany introduced the English standard of sterling silver.
Tiffany & Company
Then in 1853, the store name was shortened to Tiffany & Company when Charles Tiffany took control and established the firm’s emphasis on manufacturing its own jewelry.
In the early 1860’s, the store relocated uptown to a Fifth Avenue location.
In 1868, Tiffany opened a branch store in London.
Tiffany acquired and sold some of the French crown jewels in 1887, firmly establishing his reputation.
Tiffany & Company has since opened stores in major cities all over the world.
In addition to his business, Charles Tiffany was a patron of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and one of the founders of the New York Society of Fine Arts.
As a result of his interest in theatre, one of the unknown achievements in Charles Tiffany’s life was when he teamed up with Thomas Edison and together they created foot lights and other ways of electrically lighting theaters. As a result of this, Broadway and other shows became more popular.
At his death in Yonkers, New York on February 18, 1902 at the age of 90, Charles Tiffany’s company was capitalized at more than $2 million and acknowledged as the most prominent jewelry company in North America.
Today, Tiffany’s markets itself as an arbiter of taste and style.
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