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  • Writer's pictureLaura Rocha

The Tiffany’s Identity Crisis

A starfish is not a way to solve things.

 


In the 2010s, I remember thinking Tiffany & Co. was the epitome of class. As a teenager who was yet to be awakened to the specter haunting Europe, I envied the girls who got Tiffany’s Key pendants for Christmas and fantasized about the day a dreamy prince with soulful eyes would bring out a little teal box containing a diamond ring. I did not picture a jellyfish brooch with tentacles of 18K yellow gold, baguette sapphires, or a body made of moonstones, tanzanites, and 3 carats worth of diamonds.


The 2023 Blue Book showcases Tiffany & Co.’s latest high jewelry collection, Out of the Blue. Inspired by the sea — in an effort to honor whimsy designer Jean Schlumberger — the collection “both perpetuates and reinvents the aquatic worlds that [Schlumberger] dreamt up.” But these Out of the Blue pieces seem to have less whimsy — and seem to be more out-of-touch, even in comparison to prior collections.


The Blue Book is a sacred text in the world of high jewelry, published every year since 1845. It began as a way to highlight some of the world’s most precious and rare stones, including diamonds attained from French and Spanish aristocracy. Miraculously, the book’s launch coincided with the first appearance of these incredible pieces on display in the United States (and earned Tiffany founder Charles Lewis Tiffany the nickname “The King of Diamonds,” as deemed by The New York Times). Some lavish pieces went on display at the Paris Expositions of the late 19th century and were awarded gold medals for their opulence. Blue Books from the Gilded Age featured pieces inspired by these historic items, and even 20th and 21st-century versions appeared as well — including a 2013 diamond brooch that pays homage to one originally created for Marie Antoinette (Tiffany purchased the original on May 12, 1997).


Looking at the Tiffany & Co. website and social media channels, it feels like the brand is having some sort of identity crisis, bordering on ego death. You can almost feel for them: how hard is it, really, trying to evolve into the 21st century while staying in touch with the roots of a Gilded Age social strata? Out of the Blue collection looks random, like its title, and it’s not the only move by the brand that appears disjointed. Schlumberger famously said he designed to make women look precious, rather than expensive, and his pieces were meant for the icons of his time (see: Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn). In this same vein, it makes sense that the brand would be Beyoncé’s official jeweler for the RENAISSANCE World Tour.



But the pieces showcased by Beyoncé have barely anything in common with the Blue Book 2023: Out of the Blue collection. The sea creatures of Out of the Blue look like they would be wearing the person, not the other way around, devoid of kitsch, enveloped by their own whimsy. By contrast: Beyoncé’s Tiffany’s standard jewels are loud and ostentatious, but they make her look modern above all else, establishing her as an icon in the industry firmament. They enhance her. I fear if she opted for the starfish or the three-dimensional shell that hides a sapphire, would we even know where to look?


And then there’s the Nike collaboration! Flop of the year. One would think this was an attempt to appeal to the sneaker collectors of the world — a younger, hipper crowd more into street style than Gossip Girl-reminiscent key necklaces.


But then who is the Out of the Blue collection for? A Marie Antoinnete-esque royal foreign to today’s zeitgeist? You can either broaden your audience, or design for icons and royals, but you cannot have it both ways, baby. 🌀


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