Tiffany & Co., the successful New York jewelry and silver company that became a behemoth, was established and run by Louis C. Tiffany’s father Charles Lewis Tiffany from 1837 to his death in 1902. At which point Louis Comfort was elected to the Board of Directors at Tiffany & Co. and immediately established a small jewelry workshop at Tiffany Studios, supervised by Julia Munson, formally of the enamels department. Characteristically, the experimental work being carried out on jewelry remained secretive until he deemed it of high enough quality to release publically. Tiffany had previously collaborated with his father on jewelry pieces for the Paris exposition Universelle in 1900. The new pieces created under Munson’s supervision were intended for show at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase exposition in St. Louis.
The new designs created by the Studio were recognizably marked with the Louis C. Tiffany aesthetic present in his other artistic endeavors. Tiffany preferred semiprecious stones over those used in Tiffany & Co. designs because certain characteristics of the stones better represented his artistic vision. The milkyness of moonstones, for instance, resembled the opalescent glass he used in his stained glass, the fire of opals similar to the iridescent favrile glass. The designs had a hand-wrought quality embodying Tiffany’s preoccupation with Nature and color, distinct from the delicate commercial designs produced by Tiffany & Co. at the time. Enameling was also prominent in the designs, as Ms. Munson’s expertise in the field were readily applied to jewelry pieces.
A review from the Jeweler’s Circular-Weekly from October 26, 1904 “Notable Exhibits at the St. Louis Exhibition” said this about Tiffany’s jewelry work:
“The jewelry designed and made under the personal supervision of Louis C. Tiffany has a wide range of expression. There is a parting in the ways in making the materials subordinate to the design instead of adapting the design to the beaten track imitations of metal and gem uses… The designs are in forms and details of flowers, and while they are characterized by a free naturalistic expression, they are slightly conventionalized, just enough to relieve them from the appearance and effect of over-simulation.”
In 1907 Louis Comfort Tiffany moved the jewelry department from Tiffany Studios into the Tiffany & Co. building at 37th and Fifth Avenue. Ms. Munson remained as supervisor of the department. With access to the parent companies inventory, jewelers, and accumulated expertise, Tiffany’s jewelry designs changed dramatically from the earlier hand hewn examples. His new jewelry designs were more formal, abstract representations of the natural, historic, and exotic themes were created. Tiffany no longer used copper, instead opting to use precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum. Enameling was also scaled back, used now primarily to accentuate the color of a stone rather than as the focal point of a piece. Pieces created after 1907 were marked with the Tiffany & Co. stamp; therefore it is not known how many of the pieces are Louis C. Tiffany designs as compared to regular company output. In 1914 Munson retired, Meta K. Overbeck assumed supervision of the jewelry department and remained with the company after the department’s closure.