More than a little blue box: In New York City in 1837, Charles Lewis Tiffany and John F. Young founded Tiffany & Young, a store dedicated to selling stationery and costume jewelry. In 1845 the company began selling real jewelry and published its first mail-order catalog. During the late 1940s it added silverware, timepieces, perfumes, and other luxury items.
In 1853, Tiffany bought out his partners, who at the time also included J. L. Ellis, and the store became Tiffany & Co. Tiffany found its primary consumers in the growing number of wealthy Americans. When Tiffany died in 1902, his son Louis Comfort Tiffany joined the firm as the artistic director. Tiffanys sales hit nearly $18 million in 1919, but they dropped to less than $3 million in 1932 because of the Great Depression. Louis Tiffany died in 1933.
In 1940 the company moved to its present Fifth Avenue location, and in 1955 the Tiffany heirs sold their shares to Hoving Corporation. Walter Hoving, chairman and CEO, expanded Tiffany & Co. beyond its New York City store to San Francisco in 1963 and added locations in Beverly Hills and Houston in 1964.
Tiffany continued to see increased sales throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and by 1974 net sales reached $35.2 million. When the company was sold to Avon Products, Inc., in 1978, Tiffanys sales had reached a record $60.2 million. However, by increasing the stores selection of less expensive items, consumers felt Avon was hurting Tiffanys image, and Avon sold the company to Tiffany chairman William Chaney in 1984. Chaney set to improve Tiffanys tarnished image with affluent shoppers and expanded the company into Europe with its first store in London in 1986. The company went public in 1987 with about 30 retail locations worldwide.