In one swift move, Tiffany & Co. has transformed from the Queen of Alexandre Arnault’s chessboard to just another Pawn in the LVMH war chest. Could Tiffany’s latest partnership announcement signal the death of creativity within this illustrious jewelry firm?

The Glasses

This weekend Tiffany’s announced their “engagement” to celebrity Pharrell Williams. However, instead of proposing with their iconic six-prong ring, Tiffany’s christened their partnership with diamond-studded spectacles. Hand-crafted in 18-karat yellow gold and set with over 25 carats of diamonds and two emeralds, these sunglasses turned heads, but they weren’t all in Tiffany’s direction.

A Sotheby’s specialist holds the Astaneh-Ye Ferdaws emerald spectacles and the Halqeh-Ye Nur diamond spectacles, October 2021.
Image via Sotheby’s.

Those who weren’t fixated on Tiffany’s announcement were seeing double while reviewing a widely publicized Sotheby’s auction held in October of 2021, particularly Lot No. 213. Romantically named, The Astaneh-Ye Ferdaws (gates of paradise), these spectacles incarnate the Islamic association with the color green with that of paradise, salvation and eternity. Adding to their poetic beauty, the emerald lenses are purported to have belonged to Shah Jahan, the 17th-century Indian ruler who commissioned the Taj Mahal for his beloved late wife, Mumtaz Mahal. According to Professor Ebba Koch of the Art Institute of Vienna, the lenses possibly served the Shah in healing his extreme mental state of mourning over the loss of his wife, providing him with a glimpse of his future eternal paradisiacal life.

The Tiffany glasses.

The Controversy

Tiffany’s branded their version of the glasses as, “custom-designed,” but their true origin is indisputable. Adding insult to injury, at the time of this writing both Tiffany’s and Williams have neglected to publicly acknowledge, or educate, their 26+ million (combined) followers on the design’s source, and cultural significance. While the creator of the original spectacles is unknown and certainly no longer earthbound, it becomes our responsibility to determine if this concept is appropriate. Is it ethical to produce a near one-for-one copy of a historical artifact in pursuit of furthering a corporate agenda? Particularly an artifact rooted in spirituality and possibly a historical figure’s grief? 

Lot 213, The Astaneh-Ye Ferdaws (gates of paradise) spectacles. Image via Sotheby’s.

A Missed Opportunity

There could’ve been a better approach to this project. Why didn’t Tiffany’s, a company which thrives off of Americana and named partnerships take this opportunity to collaborate with another American icon like Ray-Ban? It seems like the perfect chance to model a pair of sunglasses off something that might be more synonymous with American celebrity and luxuries such as the Aviators or Wayfarers.

From Queen to Pawn

I think the answer to my aforementioned question lies in plain sight. The now infamous Tiffany spectacles were used to announce a partnership with Pharrell Williams, but where did this announcement take place? Not in New York, Tiffany’s hometown and epicenter for the past 185 years. But in Paris, home to the LVMH empire; and specifically at a Kenzo (another house within the LVMH holdings) fashion show where all eyes were on Creative Director Nigo’s debut collection.

Vice President of Tiffany’s, Alexandre Arnault with Pharrell Williams at a Rimowa event in L.A.

And just like that, Tiffany & Co., an American design institution for nearly 200 years, moves from Queen of the jewelry industry, to pawn of the conglomerate LVMH – pushed around the board to further a self-serving agenda designed to build and elevate its holdings’ reputations.

Is The Queen Dead?

We’ve (recently) been here before with Tiffany & Co. but it now appears to be a trend, and I have a feeling that our closely-knit industry will become tired of this continued game of corporate copycat. While I doubt the Tiffany name will ever cease to exist as a result of these actions, I can’t help but wonder something, “will creativity ever return to 610 5th Avenue?”

I certainly hope so. I have to say, it’s sad to see a company that was once synonymous with a unique expression and forward-thinking design engaged in the lowest form of creative production. The Queen may not be dead yet, but she’s certainly on life support.

Editorial written by Future Heirloom correspondent Nicholas Hyatt, excerpted from original publication on Hyatt’s website, Ping Pong Ring. Images provided by Nicholas Hyatt. Edited and formatted by Future Heirloom Editor Jackie Andrews.