Art Jewelry, Favrile Metalwork & Precious Glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany
Unlike the extravagant jewelry produced under the direction of Charles Lewis Tiffany (1812–1902) at Tiffany & Co., Louis Comfort Tiffany’s jewelry was distinguished by design and color. He executed his innovative creations using largely semiprecious stones and enamels.
A highlight of the jewelry display is a necklace that Tiffany designed for exhibition between 1903 and 1906. The necklace, featuring a peacock mosaic of opals on its front disc and an enameled flamingo motif on the reverse, is arguably the designer’s most important extant work in the medium. It is one of just two pieces of jewelry chosen for illustration in The Art Work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, Charles de Kay’s 1914 authorized biography. The installation also includes a rarely exhibited jewelry design book by Meta Overbeck, who supervised the art jewelry department for Tiffany beginning in 1914.
Tiffany’s move into jewelry after his father’s death in 1902 was a natural progression from the jewel-like small objects he had been perfecting in prior years. Tiffany began producing enamelware—a technique in which vitreous paste is applied to metals using high heat—in 1898. Tiffany was drawn to enamels because they presented exciting new color options. When he set up his art jewelry department, he staffed it with employees from the enamel department, and the two departments remained closely allied. Tiffany only produced about 750 enamel pieces altogether. For his enamel designs, Tiffany took inspiration from nature. Talented Tiffany artists such as Alice C. Gouvy carefully rendered realistic studies for these designs in watercolor, two of which are on display in the gallery. The exhibit of enamels includes one vase wrapped in black sugar maple leaves and another bearing the fronds of a fiddlehead fern. The display of Favrile metalwork, which encompasses his enamels, also includes a gold-plated loving cup, c. 1905, studded with glass jewels.
This gallery of Tiffany jewelry and high-end luxury goods is rounded out by a group of 11 finely crafted miniature blown-glass vases—some only two to three inches tall—that were highly prized cabinet collectibles in Tiffany’s time.