Kunzite’s association with Tiffany was cemented in 1904, when it formed the centerpiece of a display at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri. Kunzite first appeared in Tiffany & Co.’s Blue Book in 1905, the same year it was described as “the most popular jewel,” its color specified as “something between a pink topaz, a pink sapphire and a very light amethyst.” Its price could range as high as those commanded by diamonds or emeralds.
“In those first days very naturally a large part of my interest was engaged in this problem of discovering and introducing these lovely unknown stones in which no jeweler of the time was even slightly interested,” said Kunz in 1927. “Of course, with the backing of such a firm I was in a commanding position to do so.”
Indeed, it was less than a decade before Kunz debuted another new discovery: a luscious peach-pink beryl, discovered on the island of Madagascar at the end of 1910. The stone was christened morganite in recognition of the support of financier and jewelry aficionado J.P. Morgan, a patron of Kunz and a generous donor to various mineralogical collections in the United States. Foremost was—and is—the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Tiffany & Co.’s exploration of the new continued well into the 20th century. In 1967, two stones were unearthed in the heart of Africa—in Tanzania and Kenya. A Maasai tribesman discovered the blue gemstone that Tiffany & Co. christened tanzanite, after its birthplace, in 1968; while tsavorite, a deep green stone named after the Tsavo River and Tsavo National Park, was unveiled to the public in 1974. Both were immediately utilized by Tiffany for new and exciting designs. The company’s designer Donald Claflin (1935–1979) created a 1968 collection liberally using tanzanite, which debuted at the opening of the first Tiffany & Co. store in San Francisco. By the end of 1969, New York Post columnist Eugenia Sheppard reported that tanzanite was the second most popular stone at Tiffany & Co. after diamonds. Fast forward to 1981, when The New York Times reported that “tsavorite and tanzanite are being treated by top-flight jewelry designers with all the reverence and pomp once devoted to the fabulous four.”
Tiffany’s combination of curiosity and a quest for beauty added a new vocabulary to the world of jewelry—new gems, entirely unique.
That fabulous four would be sapphires, rubies, emeralds and diamonds; but Tiffany’s discovery of this new spectrum of gemstones gave them their own unique and equally fabulous four: kunzite, morganite, tanzanite and tsavorite. Their championing ties in perfectly with the company’s legacy of continual invention, innovation and surprise. Ensuing generations of Tiffany designers have utilized these stones again and again in their jewelry. In the 1960s, Jean Schlumberger perched whimsical diamond birds on slabs of kunzite for his “Bird on a Rock” clips. In 1985, to celebrate her fifth anniversary with Tiffany, Paloma Picasso paired her trademark diamond Xs with oversized topaz, tourmaline and tanzanite in candied hues. Today, Tiffany & Co. designers turn to this quartet of Tiffany gemstones to add flashes of dazzling color to their elegant, modern creations.
The last word, perhaps, should go to Dr. George Frederick Kunz, Tiffany’s gem maestro: “I invariably found that it was those who cared most for beauty—in other words, artists—who needed no persuasion to my way of thinking.” That is why Tiffany & Co. designers continue to explore and experiment with brilliantly colored gemstones today, adding a unique sparkle to their artistic endeavors. DISCOVER COLORED GEMSTONES