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  • JULIE WHITE

The Visitor Centre today is ... Tiffany & Co. The Landmark

Not many things are more iconic than Tiffany's little blue boxes. We visit their new flagship to play in the ultimate jewellery box.

We found ourselves in New York City, smack dab in the middle of Manhattan, on our 30th Wedding Anniversary. What better way of celebrating than with a splash of sparkle and silver at the most famous jewellery store in the world? Tiffany & Co on 5th Avenue was immortalised in the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s starring Audrey Hepburn and is known for its signature, pale blue boxes, considered by AdWeek as the World’s Most Popular Packaging Design.

Their flagship store had not been updated since opening in 1940 and the renovated 100,000 square foot Landmark building only opened on April 28th 2023, a few weeks before our visit.


Experiential luxury is one of the strongest retail trends, and while the majority of us are struggling with high inflation, rising interest rates and a cost of living crisis, the luxury goods retail sector has proved resilient amid an array of global challenges. Savills report that physical luxury retailing opportunities abound in 2023, with luxury brands embracing a broad range of complementary strategies, such as e-commerce, the metaverse, reselling and sustainability, as well as imaginative brand experiences such as brand hotels, to enhance their store portfolios and grow their customer advocacy. Many of the luxury brands are opening larger stores, that can offer a fuller, more immersive, whole collection experience, in some cases more akin to a museum.


It is into this environment that the new Tiffany & Co flagship has opened in New York with ten floors of dazzling jewels, over 40 works of art, and even a Michelin-starred café. I remember the store's previous incarnation. I visited many years ago and found the staff dismissive and the retail space dated. The whole experience made me feel unwelcome and left me empty. While we are in no way the VIP consumer, we wondered what the levels of engagement would be now, for those of us that never get the red carpet treatment but want to play in the ultimate fantasy jewellery box.


The brand history

Harry Winston might have been called 'The King Of Diamonds' by Cosmopolitan in 1947, but Connecticut born Charles Lewis Tiffany was in the luxury jewellery game 95 years before Winston first set up shop and surely must take the title as 'The Silver King' and founder of the most recognisable jewellery brand in the world.

Charles started his working life at fifteen, in a general store owned by his father, as many of the most famous business entrepreneurs have done. In 1837, aged 25 and with $1,000 borrowed from his father in his pocket, Tiffany and a school friend, John B. Young, set up a small stationery and gift shop in New York City.


In 1938 Tiffany & Young, had diversified into a “fancy goods” store on Broadway, selling the finest glassware, porcelain, cutlery, clocks, and jewellery. The company added a third partner in 1841, J.L. Ellis, and the company started to make its own jewellery pieces.

In 1845, Tiffany began publishing its Blue Book, a catalogue of the company's most impressive gemstones and silver, which was the first direct-mail catalogue in America.


In 1853 Young and Ellis both left the company, which was now renamed Tiffany & Co. A nine foot tall Atlas clock was installed above the store entrance. Over time, as Tiffany & Co. moved flagship locations, they transported the clock with them. Still the oldest public clock in the city, it stands resplendent above the doors of The Landmark today.

As the first American company to adopt the British silver standard of using only metal that was 92% pure, Tiffany received international recognition when it won the grand prize for silver craftsmanship at the 1867 World’s Fair in Paris. In 1870 they moved into a larger store in New York's Union Square.

In 1877 a 287.42-carat rough yellow diamond was found in the De Beers’ Kimberley diamond mine in South Africa, at a time when the country, and its mines, were under British colonial rule. The following year Tiffany & Co acquired the stone and sent it to Paris where Tiffany’s chief gemologist, Dr. George Frederick Kunz, cut and polished it into a 128.54ct gem with 82 facets. Though the Tiffany Diamond gained iconic status when worn by Audrey Hepburn in the publicity photographs for Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961, the gem had long been the brand's ultimate symbol of quality and luxury. In 2019, the estimated value of the Tiffany Diamond was $30 million. (more info later)


Ten years later Charles Lewis Tiffany hit the headlines when he bought a third of the French Crown Jewels, sold off by the French government, making the company one of the most reputed gemstone purveyors of the time.

The year before, in 1886, Tiffany designed a diamond engagement ring in a new Tiffany setting, a setting which is still sought after to this day. In the mid-19th century, diamonds were worn mostly by European royalty. Charles Lewis Tiffany changed all that when he introduced America to the gems. Tiffany & Co. became the go-to jeweller in the Gilded Age for the country’s first millionaires, the likes of the Astors, Vanderbilts, and Pulitzers. It wasn't just gemstones and jewellery these monied clients wanted, they asked for the latest silver cutlery, dinnerware, trinkets, sporting cups, and more. With clients like that, his reputation soared. The brand still makes trophies for top-class sporting events, such as the NFL's Vince Lombardi Superbowl Trophy.

In the 1880s, the Great Seal, used to authenticate all US government documents was needing an update, and Tiffany's head designer James Horton Whitehouse created a new design for President Chester A. Arthur, a design that features on the one-dollar bill to this day.

In the 1880s the company began selling jewellery in elegant turquoise cases, and the company's stand at the 1889 Paris World's Fair was decorated in robin's egg turquoise in abundance.

It was a colour that became synonymous with the brand, but it took until 1998 for Tiffany & Co. to finally trademark it and, a few years later, the brand partnered with Pantone to name the colour “1837 Blue,” commemorating the brand's founding year.

After he passed away in 1902, Charles’ son, Louis Comfort Tiffany, became the company’s first official design director. A well respected painter and leader of the Art Nouveau movement, LCT designed the famous Tiffany stained glass lamps and windows, plus many decorative items for the home..

In 1940 the Tiffany flagship store opened on the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, where it remains to this day.


Breakfast at Tiffany’s comes along in 1961, further reinforcing the brand's stellar reputation. Many designers and collaborators shaped the brand's designs from the 1960s to the present day, such as Paloma Picasso, John Loring, Jean Schlumberger, and Elsa Peretti, all of whom brought something unique to the brand's portfolio, and inspired designs that live on.


LVMH, the world leader in luxury with a unique portfolio of over 75 prestigious brands, acquired Tiffany & Co in 2021 for a reported $16 billion.


Tiffany & Co.’s brand exhibition, Vision & Virtuosity, opened in 2022 in London’s iconic Saatchi Gallery. With an extraordinary collection of over 400 pieces of archive material, from jewellery designs, information on their window displays and the original script from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the exhibition proved to be very popular.


You can read more in Rachel Taylor's Tiffany & Co, The Story Behind The Style and online on the brand's website.


The Visitor Centre design

The renovation and redesign of this landmark building, by OMA practice, features an addition of a couple of floors, wrapped in glass and metal panels, lit from within by the signature Tiffany blue.

One of the top interior designers in the world, multi award-winning, taste maker, designer, art collector and architect Peter Marino took nearly 4 years to create the interiors for The Landmark for Tiffany & Co. Bloomberg estimates that the renovation cost at least $250 million.

Marino ­is an icon of design, and no shrinking violet. He is credited with redefining the world of luxury design and is as instantly recognisable as the logos of the brands he works for. He graduated from Cornell in 1971, setting up his New York practice in 1978. Andy Warhol was his first residential client and Barneys New York was his first retail store. He has mixed art, texture, materiality, scale and light with a deft, leather-clad, often bejewelled hand ever since. He is, quite simply, the premier rock star designer for luxury retail brands, such as Chanel, Bulgari, Vuitton, Armani, Fendi, Christian Dior, YSL, Hublot, and others. His portfolio is vast, eclectic and accomplished, spanning commercial and residential projects for the chosen few that can afford him.

Art is at the forefront of many of Marino's designs. His knowledge of the subject is extensive, his personal collection diverse and world-class and it is a true passion, though gardening might take the top spot. He commissions art for all his designs, be it hotels, residences, or stores, bringing in artists at the start of projects rather than after the fact. This could be why the store we enter feels more like a gallery than just a store. There are pieces by Damien Hirst, Julian Schnabel, Anish Kapoor, Hans Hartung and Daniel Arsham.


The renovation has been carried out with a focus on sustainability, underpinning Tiffany’s environmental, health and wellbeing initiatives. The Landmark is set to achieve WELL Platinum and LEED Gold certifications.


Entrance and Ground Floor

Entering through the revolving doors in the preserved limestone façade, with its historic Atlas statue and clock, we catch our first glimpse of what is in store. We were early, so got the space nearly to ourselves, but trust me, it does fill up during the day with tourists and shoppers alike.

The sales floor has gone from a mixture of browns and dark-toned stone, to gleaming white marble and parquet flooring, under the glow of a 22-foot “Diamond Skylight” art installation by Hugh Dutton. It's a vast improvement.

It is here that you’ll discover some pieces from Tiffany's most popular collections, in display cases flanked by 14 video screens, each 19 feet tall, representing windows onto a CGI New York skyline, across which a pair of Schlumberger birds occasionally fly, which keeps you looking, believe me.

Resplendent in a display case on the ground floor is the 128.54-carat Tiffany Diamond, in its new setting, created for the opening of the Landmark and presented as if it were in the Louvre and was the Mona Lisa. The rare yellow diamond was exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and this is the fifth time it has been set in a jewellery piece. It has been worn in various settings by four people, including Lady Ga Ga to the Oscars in 2019 and Beyoncé for the brand's ABOUT LOVE, 2021 ad campaign. A copy of the stone was even featured around the neck of actress Gal Gadot in the Death on the Nile movie in 2022.


7th Floor

Our top tip is to head to the top floor in the elevator and work down. This brings you out onto the 7th floor, which we know is not the top floor, but is the highest floor the general visitor can access. The VIPs get access to the floors above, lucky them. It's a mix of comfortable seating and display cases and home to Tiffany's 'High Jewelry', some of the brand's premier pieces featuring remarkable gemstones.

Not sure my budget will stretch to this for my anniversary.

This is where you get the best views of the staircase, crafted in cerused oak, based on Peretti’s iconic bone bracelet, though you'll have to be patient and grab a quick photo when the social media influencers have moved out of the way. It can take a while, trust me, as those mirrors seem to be a magnet for selfie-takers.

The 7th floor also houses a Patek Philippe boutique, displaying high-end watches, and artifacts and information boards on the brand, that was probably our favourite part of the store and certainly the one that felt more like a museum exhibit.

It's a work in progress, as we found a few areas not yet finished, but we did meet a lovely Jewish sales advisor, who had worked for Tiffany for many years. She was really pleased that we had taken so much time to interact with the information displayed and certainly wasn't dismissive. She made time to talk to us and was genuinely interested in our comments.

A copy of the book Patek Philippe: The Authorized Biography, was available for us to flick through. You can buy it online and it would make a terrific coffee table book for the luxury watch lover.

This picture reminded me of a Wes Anderson film.

I was so taken by the information that I plan to visited the Patek Philippe Museum in Switzerland. Now that's advocacy for you, even if I can't afford one of their stunning timepieces.


6th floor - Dinnerware and home goods

Need a Tiffany dog bowl, a Tiffany baby rattle, a Tiffany dinner service or some Tiffany cushions, then head to the Home and Baby department. It is home to some fabulous art by Julian Schnabel and Tiffany’s restaurant, the Blue Box Café, by Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud.

The brand's webpage for the Blue Box Café says walk-ins are accepted. However, we arrived early on the day it opened and were prepared to queue for our Breakfast at Tiffany's, as it was our special anniversary. Sadly we were told politely that the restaurant was booked up for the next few months! Bookings were being taken via the online booking portal Resy, but even now we're home, we can see no availability in the future. We couldn't even book prior to our visit, as Resy wasn't taking bookings from the UK. So we are left with just some images online that show us what we could have experienced.

The café opens onto the rest of the retail floor, with a burly security guard standing watch. We expected it to be situated in its own space, maybe on its own floor, rather than offering a glimpse of what we couldn't have. I did feel for the security guard, who semed to spend most of his shift politely telling tourists that they couldn't have a table. It might have been easier to have fabulous doors that shut out the onlookers. We were so close, yet so far!

A member of staff did tell us that she does have a few tables set aside for some of her clients. She was diplomat enough not to insult me, but we got the distinct impression that if you were spending $50k on a bangle or two, then maybe you might get a coveted seat.


5th floor - Silver

Tiffany might be known for its diamonds, but for most of us it is best known for one hero product, the sterling silver, Return To Tiffany heart jewellery, engraved with the phrase “Please Return to Tiffany & Co. New York.”

The emblem was launched as a key chain in 1966, and then part of a gold jewellery collection in 1980, before being brought out in sterling silver in 1997, featuring an engraved ‘925’; a hallmark later adopted across the US as the benchmark of silver quality and authenticity.


The ‘Return To Tiffany collection’ encapsulated the mood of the early 2000s, aspirational, obvious, and nonchalant. It was worn by the celebrities of the day like Paris Hilton, and in films such as Legally Blonde and its popularity soared to cult status.


With a huge trend in all things Y2K, it seems Gen Z is now on board too, and in an attempt to capture a younger market, Tiffany even collaborated with streetwear brand Supreme, to produce a new collection that sold out quickly. The heart chain has even been spotted on the likes of singer Ariana Grande. I have a necklace from the 1990s which I am handing down to my daughter for her wedding day, and it is a design I have always enjoyed.

I wear only a few pieces of jewellery, all silver and all of which come with a memory attached. This has simplified my morning routine no end. I wear them all day, every day, so they need to be quality, hardwearing, and simple enough to go with any outfit.

This is my 30th anniversary, and the occasion warranted a little treat, one that would remind me of my trip to New York. What better than the iconic Return to New York toggle bracelet with a diamond, as, like they say in the L'Oreal adverts, I'm worth it.

I might not be a high roller in the jewellery stakes, but the in-store experience was attentive and personal. The sales assistant even followed us through the store to video me with my little blue bag in front of the Audrey display. That's brand advocacy in action. We could have had the heart personalised with on-site engraving, but they required a few days for that due to demand, days we did not have, so we were encouraged to get this done in London, and to make a romantic weekend of it. That sales assistant certainly earned her commission that day. (Sadly in the excitement I forgot her name, but she was from Turkey if anyone from the store reads this). They can even personalise the blue boxes with stamps, while you sit on a Tiffany Blue chair.

I show off my new purchase and wander through the Audrey exhibit. There's music and film footage, a replica of Audrey Hepburn’s dress and her hand-annotated script from the film.

Givenchy made a replica of Hepburn’s black gown from the film, which sits in a frosted box that goes clear every few minutes. This area was mobbed, so was probably the most popular exhibit.


4th floor - Gold and diamonds

Welcome to yet another dazzling temple to sparkle, under a celestial chandelier inspired by the drawings by Jean Schlumberger. Another friendly staff member explained the piece to us.

Three break-out boutiques, for the designers such as Paloma Picasso and Elsa Peretti, are accessed from the central corridor. The Peretti area has casework and walls in cork and burlap, giving it a more organic feel, that is more in keeping with her signature, amorphic jewellery.

The Paloma Picasso area has recreations of Tiffany window displays.

Floor 3 - Love & Engagement

Surrounded by ivory silk wall panels, designed to represent wedding dresses, it is on this floor that visitors can pick out their engagement rings, flanked by works by Anish Kapoor and Daniel Arsham.

It is from this floor that the staircase winds its way up to the seventh floor, guarded by a 12-foot tall Daniel Arsham bronze sculpture.,

There are display cases of diamonds here and information that explains the cuts, carets and more.


Floor 2 - staff quarters and restaurant

Apparently the 150 sales associates get their own restaurant and break-out areas on this floor.


10th floor

The tenth floor is a Penthouse, for the high-net-worth, VIP clients, where they can shop in private, in four salons, and a private dining area that can cater to 60 people.


8th and 9th floors - Exhibition

Something we were never told about, or shown to, was the Landmark: Museum and exhibition spaces on the eighth and ninth floors, which are supposed to offer a rotation of exhibits and experiences. Apparently, it's free and I'm gutted that I missed it. However, we were in the elevator and it was marked as By Invitation Only and we were ushered onto the 7th floor by the elevator attendant.

This would undoubtedly create a destination for a longer dwell time, play up to the gallery aesthetic, showcase the brand heritage, and reinforce the connection to the arts that luxury brands are so keen to foster. I hope it houses artifacts relating to the original building, the history of the Tiffany brand, the design inspiration behind the iconic pieces and even the new interiors, displays on the crafts involved, where the materials are sourced from, and how the brand is facing up to its social responsibility and sustainability. The success of the Vision and Virtuosity exhibition in London in 2022 should signal that there is an appetite to learn more, and where better than at the very home of the brand in a city full of tourists. There is a level of added engagement that only a museum or exhibition can deliver. One day I hope to return, if I'm allowed in.


In conclusion

This is a far cry from the previous store's design and more like a gallery, that welcomes all to gaze upon the shine and sparkle inside this frivolous, jewel box of design. While there are areas that only the VIPs can access, there are few other barriers and that is refreshing.


I appreciate that the designer and brand want to keep an air of exclusivity, so I can't imagine I'll get into the café any time soon, or ever get to sample the delights of the penthouse and top floors, but I do think there is an opportunity for the brand to offer an added engagement possibility. I considered suggesting they open a café and gift shop for the casual customer, wanting Breakfast at Tiffany's on their vacation to the Big Apple, to mark a special occasion, or to just treat themselves now and again. On reflection, I can understand why the brand wouldn't want to dilute its luxury offer, but there's huge demand and that could see the tills ringing, if only to pay the cleaning staff for their endless polishing.


You can see how products are being made in-store, though one-way glass prevents you from photographing the artisans at work. This glimpse into the world of the craftsman is a trend that I have reported on for over a decade and with the rise in industrial tourism, is an added educational feature more consumers appreciate.


The mix of art and museum-like information was very welcome and certainly added to the overall shopping experience. There are Instagram moments aplenty and each member of staff we engaged with was pleasant and courteous.


The whole space has lots of circulation space and appears to be very accessible. A bit more braille on signage under the gems would have been better. I bang on about having something to touch and feel for those with sight loss, so models of some of the stones showing the cutting, faceting and polishing process would have been useful and could have been used by everyone.


If the museum areas on floors 8 and 9 are truly by appointment only, and only for the VIPs, then I do feel that the brand has missed a chance for deeper engagement and longer dwell time for the average consumer. I can feel Peter Marino's eye roll as I write this, but sometimes we all appreciate access to a more informative and educational experience, in order to make a connection to the brand. It opens up an opportunity for those that cannot afford the pieces but want to learn more to delve deeper, guests such as design and fashion students, future customers that need a little longer to save up for their purchases, or even those that come with some reservations. A brand museum is a simple way to correct misinformation, showcase new and updated values and initiatives and to address common misconceptions.


I'm going to get serious now, and address the elephant in the room that is the historic gemstone market, an industry that certainly has a past that needs some addressing and recognition. I am seeing more and more brand homes that are tweaking displays to educate the visitor on practices that are no longer acceptable and to show how, as a brand, they are committed to change. A case in point is the Tiffany Diamond. There is no mention that the mine where the gem was found, now lends its name to The Kimberley Process, a certification scheme established by the UN in 2003 to stop blood diamonds from entering the mainstream diamond market. Whilst stunning, the diamond was discovered at a time when Black labourers were forced to work in horrendous conditions for little pay. Tiffany's Beyonce campaign drew a large media backlash, that wasn't evident when Ga Ga wore the jewel a few years before. Tiffany & Co state on its website that they only offer conflict-free diamonds. "As global leaders in sustainable luxury, Tiffany & Co. is committed to sourcing natural and precious materials in an ethical and sustainable manner. We have a zero-tolerance policy toward conflict diamonds, and source our diamonds only from known sources and countries that are participants in the Kimberley Process" (Tiffany website). Maybe they should have stated this on a simple display board next to the gem as clarification. This is a perfect example of where a little more information for the visitor might have gone some way to address any negative concerns. They are not alone, as many companies and museums have historic pieces or practices that are now being called into question. Times have changed and today's customer has valid concerns and will hold you to account. Transparency and education are key.


As far as engagement goes, I was treated by my husband, left with a smile on my face, and proudly paraded my little blue bag past the Tiffany window displays, before returning to reality and hiding it in my backpack. I had earned the little bit of luxury that jangles on my wrist every day since.


How long was the visit?

You could easily spend an hour walking around the floors and taking in the jewels and products on show without buying anything. We spent closer to two and a half hours, and would have stayed longer if the museum floors were open or we could have sat down for a coffee.


How much are tickets?

No tickets are required and this was not part of any advertising.


Opening times

It's always worth checking with the venue for their current opening times, as they can vary, but the store is currently open from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM and Sunday from 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM.


You only need to book an appointment if you don't want to wait in line for a sales assistant to help you with a purchase. I did not book an appointment and a sales assistant was available within a few minutes, so booking wasn't necessary.


Appointments are required for product services, including cleaning and repairs.


 

Where we stayed:

We stayed for four nights at the Hilton Garden Inn NYC Financial Center/Manhattan Downtown, right near the water and entrance to the Staten Island Ferry terminal. We booked, as usual, through Booking.com. We found the hotel ideally located for a river walk to escape the heat, close enough to transit via the Metro and yet far enough out of the heart of the city to be quieter at night for sleeping. It was definitely more relaxing than staying in places like Times Square as we have done before and we can recommend it.

Getting here:

We were on a 3-week road trip travelling from New York City, taking in Connecticut, Boston, Rochester and the Finger Lakes wine region, Pittsburg and Philadelphia with lots of stops planned along the route. We flew from Edinburgh, Scotland direct to JFK with Delta ( a route we'll be using again for sure) and picked up a hire car from Avis.


What else is there to see close by:

New York has such a vast amount of things to see and do, we couldn't possibly do it justice here. Those closest to Tiffany's worth a mention are as follows:

Walk just 2 blocks to the corner of 5th and W59th and you'll find yourself outside the famous Plaza Hotel and one of the entrances to Central Park. The park first opened to the public in 1859 and today 42 million people visit every year. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, perhaps the greatest American landscape architect of all time, he based his design on a park just 3 miles from my hometown in the UK, Birkenhead Park. Several years later, he would take a blank patch of land and create meadows, knolls, ponds and waterfalls, and wrote that Central Park “should resemble a charming bit of rural landscape.” It most certainly is a welcome asset in the heart of this bustling metropolis. (There are links to Olmsted and several of the visitor centres I have visited and he will feature in an exciting upcoming project that I am currently working on - watch this space).

Walk just 15 minutes and you can do another random thing we did during our recent trip, and ride the Roosevelt Island Tramway, which offers great views from the air and runs every 7-15 minutes from 59th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan to Tramway Plaza on Roosevelt Island. Once there we had a little walk around, a drink and headed back on the Metro to our next destination. It's even included in the 7 day city travel pass.

A 17 minute walk from Tiffany The Landmark and you arrive at SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, which we really enjoyed.

You get great views and plenty of time to enjoy the art installations on the observation decks. Top Tip - head up later in the day and you might get to see the views in daylight and sunset. There's a bar, so we had drinks with a fabulous view. Now one of our favourite observation decks in NYC for sure.

MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) is just a 7 minute walk from Tiffany Landmark and home to six floors housing 200,000 different paintings, sculptures, photos, drawings, and many other types of art, so you’re bound to find at least one thing you’ll like.


And for those fashionistas, there are retail stores aplenty from the likes of Chanel and Dior around the corner on E57th, to Gucci next door on 5th, and Westwood on E55th and if you need some respite then why not head to St Patrick's Cathedral only a 7 minute walk away.


There's so much to do, you'll never do it in a weekend and we recommend resigning yourself to return again (and if you're lucky again and again) and just spend time soaking up the atmosphere maybe with a walk around the Village, catching the view from Brooklyn or Jersey City, or slowing down walking the High Line. The City that never sleeps will always surprise and delight you.


Visited: May 2023

Photographs: ©Julie White unless noted otherwise


Disclaimer - The views and opinions expressed are solely my own. I paid for the tours in full and any comments reflect my personal experiences on that day. Please visit and garner your own thoughts and feel free to research the brand and the visitor centre in question.



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