May 1, 2023—It’s only happened five times. Since founder Charles Lewis Tiffany acquired a stunning yellow diamond rough in 1887, had his gemologist George Kunz oversee the cutting into a 128.54 modified cushion-shape and dubbed it the Tiffany Diamond, the extraordinary gem has only been mounted in five jewels. (See the historic examples in this illustrated timeline.)
Two of the five times, the Tiffany Diamond—which is not for sale at any price—has been mounted in jewels by Jean Schlumberger. The recently unveiled fifth treasure is a tribute to the designer as much as a salute to Tiffany’s newly renovated Fifth Avenue location and heritage of purveying diamonds.
Imagining how he would mount the Tiffany Diamond was one of the first things the French designer, Jean Schlumberger, did when he began his career at the American jeweler in 1956. Vogue covered his concept of a “Wardrobe of Settings” along with a photo of the unmounted Tiffany Diamond by Irving Penn.
The story said, “Jean Schlumberger, the brilliant young jewelry designer for Tiffany’s, studied it with fascination for months; finally had the idea of designing a ‘wardrobe’ of three settings in which the great canary diamond might be worn interchangeably.” None of the jewels were made at the time.
In 1961 Schlumberger’s dream of setting the Tiffany Diamond came true. The 128-carat stone was mounted in his Ribbon Rosette necklace. The centerpiece of the jewel featured in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of the original brooches the designer conceived for his “Wardrobe of Settings.”
When Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard enter the Fifth Avenue flagship, she off-handedly remarks that she “doesn’t give a hoot about jewelry except diamonds,” looks down into a display case and adds “like that!” The “that” she is referring to is the Tiffany Diamond in the Schlumberger necklace. Hepburn did not wear the jewel in the film, but she did pose in the piece for publicity images.
For the 1995 Jean Schlumberger retrospective at the Museé des Art Décoratifs in Paris, staged eight years after the designer died, the Tiffany Diamond was set in his Bird On A Rock brooch design.
The fantastical little cockatoo perched on the corner of the big gem proved to be so popular, Tiffany kept the gem in the setting for many years to the delight of the visitors to the Fifth Avenue store where it was on display on the Main Floor.
Now in honor of the glorious renovation of Tiffany in New York, dubbed The Landmark, the Tiffany Diamond has been re-set in a jewel inspired by Schlumberger’s Bird on a Rock.
A flock of five Schlumberger-style cockatoos, that have become something of an unofficial mascot at Tiffany, fly around the yellow diamond bringing movement to the gem. The design took 1,384 hours to create, 407 hours to set and 190 hours to polish. All in, there was 2000 hours in the development of the jewel.
“Thirty years ago, we set the diamond in the Bird on a Rock for the Jean Schlumberger Paris retrospective,” explains Nathalie Verdeille, Tiffany’s Chief Artistic Officer, Jewelry & High Jewelry, who created the new design. “Today, the Tiffany Diamond and the Bird on a Rock meet again for a new love story full of liberty and joie de vivre.”
Another rare event in the history of the Tiffany Diamond is for the stone to appear in the famed Tiffany New York windows.
In 1955, Tiffany’s celebrated Display Manager and Artistic Director, Gene Moore, put the diamond in the hands of a gold wire angel sculpture in his holiday window display. The light of the stone reportedly sparkled so brightly that passersby on the opposite side of Fifth Avenue could see it.
For the opening of The Landmark, Christopher Young, Creative Director, Vice President for Global Creative Visual Merchandising, conceived a special window for the new Tiffany Diamond jewel to be on display. The dynamic window had moving shattered glass behind a sort of crystal ball. It was magical, mesmerizing and totally memorable for all who had the opportunity to see it in Window 1 of The Landmark during the opening celebrations.
Now the Tiffany Diamond in the new setting is in its permanent home on the back wall of the Main Floor of The Landmark. The birds on the jewel echo the video installation lining the grand interior with a couple of Schlumberger’s cockatoos literally flying around the Manhattan skyline.
In the sister case on the back wall there is the Medusa pendant. Louis Comfort Tiffany designed the masterwork during the early years of the 20th century. Together the two pieces prove Tiffany’s soaring creativity has been consistent for well over 100 years.
If you are wondering if anyone is going to wear the new Tiffany Diamond jewel, so am I. The Met Gala is tonight and I wouldn’t be surprised if the treasure turned up on a guest at the event which garners international attention. If the piece does attend the party I would be feeling as joyful as the birds flying around the famous gem.
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