Fueled by Charles Lewis Tiffany’s passion for acquiring rare and unusual gemstones, Tiffany & Co. has a longstanding legacy of discovery and exploration. The diamonds and colored stones he and his gemologists procured played a major part in establishing the company’s reputation as a world-renowned jeweler.
Dr. George Frederick Kunz
Prior to the mid-19th century, colored gemstones were rarely used in American jewelry. All that changed in 1876 when a young gemologist, Dr. George Frederick Kunz, sold an exceptional tourmaline to founder Charles Lewis Tiffany. Soon after, Dr. Kunz joined the company and embarked on a lifelong quest for the most extraordinary gemstones for Tiffany’s clientele.
A Quest for Beauty
The treasures unearthed by Kunz formed the world’s greatest collection of gemstones, including exotic yellow beryl, demantoid (green) garnets and luminous aquamarines. Kunz was equally passionate about American gemstones, adding Montana sapphires, Maine tourmalines, and garnets and topazes from Utah to Tiffany’s burgeoning vault. Tiffany’s legacy of discovery continued well into the 20th century.
Around 1902, Dr. George Frederick Kunz, Tiffany & Co.’s chief gemologist, was sent specimens of the lilac pink mineral spodumene from the White Queen mine near Pala, California. In September 1903, a fellow gemologist proposed the name kunzite for the gemstone in honor of Kunz, the man who made beautiful gems his enduring passion.
Financier John Pierpont Morgan, a leading figure of America’s Gilded Age, was a major collector of colored gemstones and a devoted Tiffany customer. He commissioned Tiffany & Co.’s Dr. Kunz to assemble several important collections of gems, which he eventually donated to the American Museum of Natural History. In recognition of Morgan’s patronage and support, Tiffany named a violet pink beryl discovered in Madagascar morganite and introduced it to the world in 1910.
In the 1960s, a unique transparent blue stone was found at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania. Tiffany named the stone tanzanite after its country of origin and the only known source of the stone. Introduced by Tiffany in 1968, this exceedingly rare gemstone is celebrated for its rich ocean blue color touched with shades of violet and the midnight sky.
In 1970, Africa yielded another incredible find with the discovery of a glistening green gemstone at the Kenya-Tanzania border near Tsavo National Park. The company took an immediate interest, identifying it as a very rare type of garnet distinguished by an intensely rich hue. Henry B. Platt, then president of Tiffany, named it tsavorite and introduced it in 1974.
Tiffany’s gemstone heritage remains vibrantly alive with many of the original stones acquired during the decades of discovery, as well as such stones as Paraiba tourmalines and mandarin garnets, emeralds from Colombia and sapphires from Kashmir. Each gem is set in jewelry designs handcrafted with the utmost care and sparkling with a radiant beauty that has distinguished Tiffany & Co. for over 180 years.