Louis Comfort Tiffany waited until after his father’s death (Charles Lewis Tiffany) in 1902 before beginning to create jewelry. On March 22, 1902 Tiffany received approval to become a member of Tiffany & Co.’s Board of Directors, afterwards becoming vice-president and art director. This gave Tiffany the ability to make executive choices; without being under the shadow of his father any longer Tiffany was able to focus his creative energies on his jewelry.(p73)
Tiffany began to experiment with jewelry designs in 1902 at Tiffany Furnaces, with the intent of showing his pieces as part of Tiffany & Co.’s display at the St. Louis Exposition. It was the perfect venue for him to show his range of talent in a variety of media. All the jewelry Tiffany made during this time was stamped with “Louis C. Tiffany,” along with “Artist.”(p75) Unfortunately there are no surviving day books nor ledgers to help provide information on how Tiffany went about his jewelry prior to 1907, however his exhibit at the St. Louis Exposition provides some knowledge of his ventures.(p76)
For many of the pieces that Tiffany produced during this time, his focus gravitated towards flower‑like inspirations. The nature theme was also a current motif that occurred in many of his other works. He also produced some pieces based on Etruscan prototypes.(p76)
Motifs such as wild carrots, dandelions, birds and blackberries were quite common. The scarab theme was also used quite frequently as a decorative motive in his jewelry and desktop items.(p122) It is noted that many of the pieces took on a very chunky appearance, reminiscent of the jewelry worn by the Celts. His work was very different from the airy, fluttery look of the Art Nouveau.(p245)
Tiffany’s jewelry can be categorized into two main areas of influence, naturalism and historicism, but after further investigation it is apparent that he had many other influences, some being quite unidentifiable.(p101)
Use colour and pattern
Most of Tiffany’s work has a lot of pattern, and looks busy but his use of colour makes his work stand out from everyone else’s. He uses mostly different tones of greens, blues and yellows in his glass work and lamps.
It seems to be the case that unusual colorations appealed to Tiffany, like the opal.(p89) He also preferred gemstones that were either opaque or translucent. Turquoise, jade, carnelian, lapis, moonstones, and opals were all chosen for their ability to filter light. Emphasis based on color was very prevalent in his works.(p110)
He devoted his first year of jewelry‑making mainly to focus towards forms and techniques, and only really began to put a collection together once he was satisfied with the fruits of his labor.(p91)
Once Tiffany and Co.’s began to manufacture his jewelry, there was a marked evolution in his pieces. His earlier pieces went from being made in a “hand-wrought” looking manner, to a much more symmetrical and stylized fashion.(p97) There was a great variety of jewelry produced during the 26 years that Louis Tiffany’s enameling and jewelry division was in operation at Tiffany & Co. It has been estimated that nearly 5,500 pieces were produced during that time, an impressive amount considering the detail and craftsmanship in each piece.(p136)
Style of work
Tiffany liked to use lots of pattern and colour in his work, and quite a lot of his work included animals, trees and flowers.
Although Tiffany was widely recognized for his artistic forms of expression, his jewelry was rather overlooked – even to this day.
One of the last significant pieces that Tiffany produced was a plique-à-jour gold chalice enameled with peacock feathers, which he had designed in 1925. The piece was known to capture the true essence of his artistic expression. The cup portion of it was shaped like a tulip, once again reinforcing his admiration for nature. The peacock motif, shown in many of his pieces, is thought to have been his last appeal to immortality.(p160)
A Tiffany Thought
Tiffany and his thoughts on artistic expression:
True art is ever progressive and impatient of fixed rules. Because a thing has always been done in a certain way is no reason why it should never be done in any other.
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- Janet Zapata (1993). The Jewelry and Enamels of Louis Comfort Tiffany. New York: Harry N Abrams. ISBN 978-0810935068.
- Alistair Duncan (1992). Louis Comfort Tiffany. Library of American Art. Harry N Abrams & National Museum of American Art. ISBN 978-0810938625.
- Hugh F McKean (1980). The "Lost" Treasures of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1st ed.). Garden City, New York: Doubleday. ASIN B000YS8HP8. ISBN 978-0385095853.
- Fred S Kleiner; Christin J Mamiya (2005). Gardner’s Art Through The Ages: The Western Perspective (12th ed.). Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN 978-0495004783.