Mention the name Tiffany’s to almost anyone and their first reaction is the iconic 1961 movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, starring Audrey Hepburn. Dig a little beneath the surface though and there are an abundance of valid reasons for Tiffany’s having achieved a reputation for luxury, decadence, and class. One of the perhaps lesser known assets of Tiffany’s is a yellow diamond known as The Tiffany Yellow.
Believed to have been discovered at the Kimberley mine in South Africa in 1877, with a rough weight of 287.42 carats, the Tiffany Yellow is one of the largest canary yellow diamonds ever discovered. It was acquired by Charles Tiffany for $18,000 and cut in Paris by Tiffany’s gemologist, George Kunz, in 1879 into a cushion shape of 128.54 carats.
Kunz studied the stone for a year before cutting it cut into a cushion shape with an amazing 90 facets - 48 on the pavilion, 40 on the crown, plus the table and culet - 32 facets more than the accepted square antique brilliant cut. The crown is stepped, which involves splitting the main facets, which was standard procedure for the day. However, the pavilion received three steps, one more than what is standard. This is unique. It is claimed that this cut was made to make the stone smolder or glow rather than sparkle.
To further add to the stone’s allure, it has an unusual feature in a yellow diamond of retaining its color by artificial light. Although described by Tiffany’s to have a clarity of VS1, the Tiffany Yellow has never been issued by a gemological laboratory. Similarly, the diamond is always described as 'canary yellow' or 'golden-yellow', but these are not actual gemological color grades, such as Fancy Intense Yellow or Fancy Yellow.
The gem has been viewed by millions over the years when displayed at Tiffany’s. It was also loaned by Tiffany’s to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where it was on display from April to September, 2007.
The Tiffany Yellow has been mounted on a white diamond necklace, however is best recognized as part of the “Bird on a Rock” jewel created by Tiffany designer Jean Schlumberger in the 1960s. The platinum and gold bird, covered with white and yellow diamonds with a ruby eye, is perched atop the diamond.
Only three women to date were known to have worn the diamond, a Mrs. Sheldon Whitehouse at a 1957 Tiffany Ball, Audrey Hepburn in 1961 for the publicity photographs for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and last but not least, Lady Gaga at the 2019 Oscar Awards.