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Fashion and Beauty

Tiffany's dazzling legacy of vision and virtuosity

ART DE VIVRE - Ricky Toledo, Chito Vijandre - The Philippine Star
Tiffany's dazzling legacy of vision and virtuosity
Fleurage Bracelet of 48-carat aquamarine and diamonds by Jean Schlumberger, from Blue Book 2022.
Ricky Toledo

LONDON — The thrill of receiving that signature blue box and the history of Tiffany’s creation of showstopping jewelry no doubt draws the daily crowd trooping to the Saatchi Gallery, which is hosting the grand exhibition “Vision and Virtuosity,” a celebration of Tiffany & Co.’s 185th anniversary, as well as the 150th anniversary of its presence in London.

Founded in New York by Charles Lewis Tiffany, a true innovator with a keen eye for beauty, design and quality, the house introduced rare imports and gemstones from around the world, cementing the house’s reputation as the “Diamond Kings” upon acquisition of pieces of the French Crown jewels. Tiffany has always been guided by its innovative ideals and artistry that is realized in precious metals and gems utilizing the highest level of skill and technique.

The exhibition is a rare chance to see over 400 pieces, which were made available thanks to a remodeling of the company’s flagship store in New York. According to Christopher Young, who is responsible for the archives, the disruption was an opportunity to share some of the prized pieces from its collection of 5,000 items, which includes 1,800 pieces of jewelry.

Entering the exhibition’s first of seven chapters, we relived the experience of being enchanted by its legendary windows done in that intimate size where you just fall in and enter another world: A dreamy Central Park scene featuring the Vanderbilt gate where a lone dragonfly brooch of diamonds and sapphires in tremblant setting is perched precariously; a surreal bust with a cracking egg bonnet hatching a yellow beryl and diamond snowflake clip by Jean Schlumberger; the cutest mouse braving a phalanx of traps to grab a prized gem; a brooch in a spray of moonstones towers over skyscrapers as waters below, simulated by crystal encrusted tubes, roll endlessly in shimmering magnificence — a tribute to Truman Capote’s description of New York as “a diamond iceberg floating on river water.”

Citrine brooch in the 2017 Tiffany window “Mousetrap”.

Next came the worlds of some of the most creative visionaries that designed for Tiffany.  Jean Schlumberger has the most fantastical creations inspired by nature using extraordinary gemstones as his palette.  His Fleur de Mer brooch, designed in 1956 and given by Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor a decade later, and the stunning 1965 Bird on a Rock brooch are some of the house’s most sublime classics.

Elsa Peretti epitomizes the ’70s with her pioneering designs led by Diamonds by the Yard — a combination of fine, fluid chains and bezel-set stones that transformed the role of diamonds in fashion, making them an everyday, morning-to-night indulgence.

She also introduced sensual, undulating shapes in the Bone Cuff, Open Heart, Bottle and Bean designs. The same fluid and tactile qualities extend to her crystal, china and silver designs for the home.

Embodying the progressive art and culture of the ’80s, Paloma Picasso legitimized graffiti street art by crafting it in precious materials. Using stones previously ignored in the industry, she heralded the bold, colorful gemstone trend, as seen in a necklace with more than 15 types of precious stones and an ornate brooch with five types of colored sapphires.

Blue Book jewelry, named after the house’s 1845 annual direct mail catalogue (the first in the US) challenge the imagination and push the limits of craftsmanship and design — evolving into a showcase of the world’s most exquisite high jewelry creations. A giant pink heart pendant made from Morganite represents one of the four gemstones that Tiffany was responsible for introducing to the market together with Kunzite, Tanzanite and Tsavorite. Also on view are the famous Tiffany lamps and objets d’art like jeweled perfume bottles and cigarette cases.

A respite from all the gem gazing was the Breakfast at Tiffany’s room where a slice of Fifth Avenue was recreated, including the façade of the flagship store and a yellow cab to set the mood for revisiting the iconic 1961 movie through memorabilia that include the original script by Truman Capote and Audrey Hepburn’s black Givenchy dress.

The Love Room was also entertaining, with interactive walls to write love notes that float away as one dreams of receiving one of those prized engagement rings.

Then it was back to the serious stuff where the exhibit designers saved the best for last: A dazzling display of diamond jewelry through the years, including some beautiful hair ornaments and tiaras.  The star, of course, was the reimagining of the 1939 World’s Fair necklace that was only made possible with the recent acquisition of an 80-carat, internally flawless Empire diamond stone. An added plus is that you can take the stone out of the center and wear it as a ring.

Just when we thought we had seen everything, the whopper came:  The 128.54-carat Tiffany diamond, a yellow cushion-cut gem in a necklace of over 100 carats of diamonds. Previously worn by Audrey Hepburn, Beyonce in an ad campaign and by Lady Gaga at the 2019 Oscars, it was the lone display in the otherwise empty room, giving viewers enough space to faint upon seeing its breathtaking allure.  Upon recovery, one can have a snapshot wearing the piece — digital, of course, but a welcome souvenir, nevertheless, of a mesmerizing exhibition.

Elsa Peretti’s Scorpion necklace in gold, 1979.

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In the Philippines, Tiffany & Co. stores are located at Rustan’s Makati and Greenbelt 4, Ayala Center.

Visit tiffany.com and saatchigallery.com Follow the authors on Instagram @rickytchitov; Twitter @RickyToledo23; Facebook - Ricky Toledo Chito Vijandre.

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