Tiffany & Co. is New York’s, and indeed America’s, first great jeweler, forever linked to the city’s rise as an international capital of glamour and sophistication. Tiffany’s showplaces marked New York’s path of growth, beginning with founder Charles Lewis Tiffany’s first emporium at 259 Broadway, which opened in 1837. He subsequently moved his enterprise to 271 Broadway (1847), 550 Broadway (1853) and Union Square and 15th Street (1870). Three years after his death in 1902, the company moved to Fifth Avenue and 37th Street; and in 1940, Tiffany’s current location opened at 727 Fifth Avenue, a move that established the area as Manhattan’s most fashionable shopping district.
Designed by the architectural firm Cross & Cross, the modern, seven-story structure was embraced as the ideal new home for the treasures of Tiffany. Its graceful façade of limestone, granite and marble anchors the famous Atlas clock, a nine-foot bronzed statue of the mythological figure shouldering a clock approximately four feet in diameter. The clock was initially mounted in 1853 above the entrance of the Tiffany store at 550 Broadway.
The store’s entrance is framed by a wheat leaf pattern that represents nature as an important inspiration of Tiffany design. Arranged in crisp rows of stainless steel, the distinctive wheat leaf pays homage to the American West, with its open skies and sun-drenched fields. In addition, the store’s entry doors with striking center medallion are embellished with stainless steel fluting. This graphic pattern originates in the columns of classical architecture that influenced the Art Deco movement.
The 8,400-square-foot main floor is constructed without columns. The coffered ceiling (24 feet high) is secured with three 106-ton trusses, an advance developed for bridge construction. Also, the store was the first mercantile building with central air conditioning as part of its original design.
Then as now, Tiffany’s new flagship store was a magnet for the famous and fashionable. Customers ranged from presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, and stars of stage and screen, including Richard Burton, whose gifts of Tiffany jewels greatly enhanced the collection of his wife, Elizabeth Taylor. The main floor has also served as a set for such films as Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) with the indelible Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and Sweet Home Alabama (2002).
These luminaries are joined by people from all over the world who are drawn to the floor’s soaring expanse, with its wide aisles and windows framed by Alpine marble. Diamonds sparkle from streamlined showcases that surround pedestals of granite and burl wood. These coveted stones share space with more brilliant jewelry of legendary Tiffany design, as well as the ravishing jewels of Jean Schlumberger, sculptural designs of Elsa Peretti and bold creations of Paloma Picasso.
The Tiffany Salon, the jewel of Fifth Avenue, is located on the mezzanine, through elegant double doors of patinated bronze. Customers interested in the rarest of all jewels may explore them in sumptuous surroundings, inspired by New York’s grand residential buildings of the 1920s and 1930s, with their splendid proportions and procession of rooms. The Patek Philippe Salon is also located on the mezzanine. With its acclaimed timepieces, the salon continues the historic partnership that Tiffany & Co. and the illustrious watchmaker established in 1851.
The second floor is designed with a portal of Brazilian granite, a dramatic opening to the dazzling diamond engagement rings and other important jewels, arrayed amid luxurious furnishings, hand-painted porcelain vases, and platinum leaf shimmering on panels and framing beveled mirrors. The third floor highlights Tiffany’s heritage as master of American silver design. Cases of gleaming sterling silver jewelry and accessories line a broad center aisle that ends at an open staircase of stainless steel and Winter Cloud marble. The staircase leads to the fourth floor, configured as a series of boutiques for sterling silver hollowware and flatware, china, crystal, Elsa Peretti® Home collection, and the Tiffany Leather Collection, created by renowned designers Richard Lambertson and John Truex. The fifth floor is reserved for special events and exhibitions; and customer service is on the sixth floor. Just above, in a light-filled workshop, master artisans handcraft Tiffany’s magnificent jewels with the world’s finest diamonds and gemstones.
The windows of this celebrated building overlook Fifth Avenue and Central Park, and these familiar sights are also captured in photographs that are on display throughout the store. Together they reflect the ongoing story of the city and its greatest jeweler.
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