Diamond Rush: The American Way

  • Carol Besler

John Loring, Tiffany’s renowned design director and historian, is particularly proud that Tiffany is selling diamonds sourced in North America. “The first important diamond to be cut in America was the 77-carat Tiffany II in 1889,” he notes. “I like the idea that all these years later, we’re involved in pioneering the diamond industry here.”

In fact, Tiffany has a long history of developing American resources for raw materials as well as for artistry. When Louis Comfort Tiffany, the son of company founder Charles Tiffany, built his summer home at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island in 1902, he filled it with what would become classic Americana. Laurelton Hall was a wonder of its time, with more than 80 rooms, including 26 bathrooms, as well as a bowling alley, a gymnasium, and squash courts. Fifteen greenhouses supplied floral decorations with a different motif for the house each week. There were stables, an art gallery, and a chapel. But more important, unlike the other homes of wealthy Americans of the time, it was not filled with the usual European antiques and artworks. Instead, it was dominated by the huge stained glass panels and other objets d’art that were Louis Comfort Tiffany’s trademark and that marked the beginning of the American Art Nouveau movement. Similarly, the gallery housed the work of Tiffany and other local artists who were the forerunners of American abstract expressionism. Tiffany even described the architectural style as uniquely American, calling it the Grand Canyon style, because he wanted the house to glow with color.

“It was an American adventure,” says Loring. “Louis Comfort Tiffany, when he took over the company, named himself design director instead of president because he wanted to emphasize the importance of design. He and his top designer, Julia Munson, created a whole new look for jewelry and decorative arts in America.”

Fittingly, Tiffany named its cutting subsidiary in Yellowknife Laurelton Diamond Inc. Housed in a gray industrial compound in the frigid Northwest Territories, it is a far cry from the opulence of Laurelton Hall, but it represents the pioneering spirit of Louis Comfort Tiffany. It is a symbol of homegrown luxury and of Tiffany’s steadfast independence from European tradition.

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