Tiffany & Co. is asserting its expertise in high jewelry by revealing its most expensive piece ever.
The World’s Fair Necklace was unveiled Sunday at a Tiffany event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and is bejeweled with a total 180 carats of diamonds, all set in platinum. At its center is an 80-carat oval shape, D color and internally flawless diamond that Tiffany has christened “The Empire Diamond,” named for the New York City icon in the jeweler’s hometown.
And it’s currently available for sale. While Tiffany declined to reveal the necklace’s sticker price, industry experts estimate that it would cost somewhere between $20 million and $30 million. It is the most expensive piece in the jeweler’s history after its famous 128.54 carat “Tiffany Diamond,” which is not for sale and has been labeled by Tiffany as “priceless.” While the Empire Diamond is for sale, Tiffany hopes that whoever purchases it will agree to lend the piece for special brand exhibitions.
Plans for the necklace were originally revealed by WWD in January. The design takes inspiration from the Tiffany necklace made for the 1939 World’s Fair, which was originally set with an aquamarine stone weighing in excess of 200 carats.
When the 1939 World’s Fair was held in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in New York City’s borough of Queens, Tiffany set up an extravagant display of new jewelry expressly designed in the American Art Deco aesthetic on which the jeweler grew its name.
In 2020, Tiffany’s archivists unearthed an original sketch for the necklace, depicted not with an aquamarine but a very large diamond.
For Tiffany & Co. chief gemologist Victoria Reynolds, the sketch’s discovery was serendipitous. “A short time later we were presented the opportunity to work with an incredible 80-carat diamond and I looked at the diamond and thought, ‘This is how we reimagine that [World’s Fair] necklace,’” she said.
The necklace’s 1939 iteration was set with a 200-carat aquamarine stone, 429 diamonds and it was priced at $28,000 (or about $557,000 by today’s value). By contrast, today’s version features a total of 578 diamonds, including the Empire Diamond, along with 353 round brilliant stones and 224 custom-cut baguettes. The piece took two years to complete from its initial concept phase.
As is customary of Tiffany & Co. diamonds since mid-2020, the Empire Diamond is fully traceable — it was mined in Botswana, cut and polished in Israel and set in Tiffany’s workshop in New York City.
Looking to further evolve the World’s Fair Necklace’s design, Tiffany included an element of versatility. The Empire Diamond can be popped out and mounted onto a ring by carefully unscrewing a few small fasteners around the stone. Whoever purchases the design will be bestowed with a lifetime service — a Tiffany jeweler will remain on-call to convert the piece from a necklace to ring or vice versa.
“It’s a new twist — something to add to it and improve from a technical standpoint. We considered our incredible jewelers’ skills and also modern engineering to [evolve the piece],” said Reynolds.
The World’s Fair Necklace was unveiled Sunday evening in Dubai, where Tiffany held the fourth leg of its high jewelry Blue Book event to sell its most extraordinary designs of the year. The concept kicked off in Shanghai in April, traveled to New York in September and L.A. in October. The Dubai Blue Book event, hosted at the city’s luxury multiuse building ICD Brookfield Place, was being held in concert with Dubai Expo 2021.
Tiffany chief executive officer Anthony Ledru said that high jewelry is as important to the jeweler as ever, and the category is seeing growing traction in global markets. “We are seeing a very dynamic trend for high jewelry and are experiencing the highest level of high ticket transactions in our brand’s history.
“This year’s Blue Book Collection has been very well received — especially with our renewed focus on the historic works of Jean Schlumberger. Money cannot buy history and money cannot buy style — our clients know this. As a result, we had a record year in China and the U.S. for our high jewelry collection. Dubai is the natural next destination for us.”
While in previous years Tiffany had held a large gala to unveil its Blue Book collection in New York by flying in top priority collectors to view its newest creations, pandemic-related travel restrictions have pushed the jeweler to consider a more localized approach.
For Ledru, this strategy plays back to Tiffany’s roots and has been such a success that he hopes to implement it more widely in the coming years. “Our founders have been traveling the world for international fairs since the early days of Tiffany — a practice that was not common at the time,” he said. “Being present in all of the key markets in the world is in line with our company’s DNA and we will carry on this legacy. We have a vast global footprint and will build upon that in each market with specialized events…This will give clients the opportunity to engage with Tiffany’s authority in diamonds and colored gemstones on a more intimate level.”
The Dubai event marked Tiffany’s first Blue Book event in the Middle East. Generally in recent months the luxury market has been refocusing its attention on the region, with events and marketing activities particularly anchored in Dubai.
Of this, Ledru said: “Dubai is a city of the future and a city of extravagance…There is a respect for legacy, and a passion for the future, innovation and invention in Dubai — all things that are critical to Tiffany. Our clients in the Middle East are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the best quality gemstones and diamonds, set in the most intricate craftsmanship and design. While this is the first time we will be showing the Blue Book collection in the Middle East, these markets will continue to be a focus for Tiffany in the future.”
The World’s Fair Necklace is the latest high-profile initiative for Tiffany since coming under the fold of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Two weeks ago, the jeweler unveiled a collaboration with streetwear juggernaut Supreme. Increasingly so, Tiffany is putting a focus on its high jewelry designs in ad campaigns and social media posts as a means to elevate its brand resonance. The jeweler has photographed these precious pieces on celebrities like Hailey Bieber and Jay-Z and Beyoncé in ad campaigns aimed at younger shoppers.
Reynolds, who heads up the design and creation of Tiffany’s most valuable designs, said: “I think it actually reinforces our position as the king of diamonds for the past 185 years. There is nothing new about our commitment for selling incredible stones with extraordinary design and craftsmanship. It’s a continuation of an incredible legacy and history…It’s part of our DNA and part of who we will be as we evolve with many exciting things ahead of us.”