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Tiffany & Co. Enameled Silver at the Columbian Exposition of 1893

Looking West From Peristyle, Court of Honor and Grand Basin
of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago, Illinois)

Beginning in the 19th century, as the popularity and accessibility of international travel increased substantially, countries began hosting international fairs and exhibitions to drive both commerce and tourism. Luxury goods makers like Tiffany & Co. used these fairs not only as a way to market their pieces to a wide audience, but also showcase their skills in hopes of attracting international press and prestige. By the end of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Tiffany & Co. had exhibited a total of 1,159 pieces in their pavilion to an audience that spanned over 27.5 million visitors during the fair’s six-month duration.

Photograph: Courtesy Driehaus Museum

Tiffany & Co.’s silver department spent four years creating and determining which items would be displayed at the 1893 fair. Their planning paid off — their booth opened to widespread acclaim both at home and abroad. They also won the grand prize for silverware, along with 15 other prizes, due in large part to their champlevé enamel masterpieces, including the infamous Magnolia vase now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Tiffany & Co. Champleve Enamel Coffeepot

Tiffany & Co. began developing their signature enamel technique in the 1870s and first exhibited it at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, where it was heralded as a uniquely American enamel technique. Technically, Tiffany’s enameling process uses a series of layers to develop color to create that signature matte palette, and was likely fired in stages multiple times. At the Columbian Exposition these pieces were the stars of their silver pavilion. Seven coffeepots were exhibited, one of which Skinner is proud to present in our July European auction (Lot 1054). Showcasing not only Tiffany & Co.’s “American” enamel technique, this coffeepot is the epitome of their virtuoso design approach as it combines acid-etched silver, hardstone accents, and enamel into a cohesive and stunning Art Nouveau form.


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