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Charles Lewis Tiffany

Born: 15-Feb-1812
Birthplace: Killingly, CT
Died: 18-Feb-1902
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY

Gender: Male
Religion: Anglican/Episcopalian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Business

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Founder of Tiffany & Co.

Charles Lewis Tiffany was born in Connecticut, worked several years in his father's cotton mill, and came to New York City in his mid-twenties. There on 18 September 1837, with $1,000 in financial backing from his father, he opened Tiffany & Young with his childhood friend John F. Young. In its early years the shop specialized in upscale merchandise including jewelry, silverware, Asian and European curiosities, moccasins, belts, and other luxuries, but the store struggled and took on a third partner, J. L. Ellis in 1841, becoming Tiffany, Young & Ellis. In the late 1840s, as political upheaval spread across Europe and the price of diamonds from European brokers plummeted, Tiffany invested heavily in the precious stones. With this the shop became primarily a jeweler, and when his partners retired in 1853 he purchased their shares and reorganized the business as Tiffany & Co..

As it became clear that hostilities between the American North and South were imminent, Tiffany foresaw a drop in demand for fine jewelry in a nation at war, and diverted the company's investments to military equipment, including swords, medals, and light armor. By 1868 the firm had established offices in Geneva, London, and Paris. In 1877 Tiffany purchased what is now known as the Tiffany Diamond, the 287-carat dazzler long displayed at the Smithsonian, and worn by Audrey Hepburn in publicity photographs for the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's. Tiffany, who died in 1902, originated several practices now standard in the jewelry industry, including a non-negotiable tagged price, the adoption of the sterling silver standard of 0.925 fine, publication of an early retail catalogue, and the basic six prong setting for the diamond engagement ring.

Noted glassmaker Louis Comfort Tiffany was his son. Alfreda Mitchell, who married Hiram Bingham III and was the mother of Hiram Bingham IV, was a granddaughter of Charles Lewis Tiffany, and economist George Gilder is his great-great-grandson.

Father: Comfort Tiffany (cotton mill owner, b. 14-Feb-1777, d. 22-Dec-1843)
Mother: Chloe Draper Tiffany (b. 13-Jun-1781, d. 15-Nov-1852)
Wife: Harriet Olivia Avery Young Tiffany (b. 22-Jan-1817, m. 30-Nov-1841, d. 16-Nov-1897)
Son: Charles Lewis Tiffany, Jr. (b. 7-Oct-1842)
Daughter: Annie Olivia Tiffany Mitchell (b. 27-Nov-1844, d. Jan-1937)
Son: Louis Comfort Tiffany (artist, b. 18-Feb-1848, d. 17-Jan-1933)
Daughter: Louise Harriet Tiffany (b. 18-Dec-1856)
Son: Henry Charles Tiffany (b. 1-Sep-1858, d. 5-Oct-1859)
Son: Burnett Young Tiffany (b. 12-Apr-1860)

    High School: Plainfield Academy, Plainfield, CT

    Tiffany & Co. Founder & President (1837-1902)
    French Legion of Honor 1878
    Award of Merit at the Paris Exposition Universelle 1867
    American Fine Arts Society
    Architectural League
    Metropolitan Museum of Art

Author of books:
The Tiffanys of America: History and Genealogy (1901, with Nelson Otis Tiffany)


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