This particular shade of duck-egg blue has long appealed to rarefied tastes
Recreate the luxury and lasting appeal of Tiffany Blue at home
In 1837 a new shop opened its doors at 259 Broadway, New York. Smart locals, if they noticed at all, might not have had high hopes for its longevity. Within a few short years, however, it had stopped selling a hodge podge of stationery and gifts, bought with a loan from one of the owners’ fathers, and had begun offering a far more luxurious selection of glassware, porcelain and jewellery. Over a hundred and eighty years later, the business hatched from this single shop has developed into a company worth $11.6 billion dollars, with some 12,000 employees worldwide. Bound up with this success is a very particular shade, known to the world as Tiffany Blue.
The choice of this hue was savvy. Pale turquoise shades have long been associated with refined taste, in part because of the value of the turquoise stone itself, but also because the colour was notoriously difficult to create. Painters and dyers yearned for stable green pigments for centuries. One of the few that could impart a good colour was verdigris, a pigment made from copper weathered by salt, water or air – think of the duck-egg patina that forms on old roofs or that encrusts the Statue of Liberty. It’s an unstable pigment, and getting the best from it required care, patience and experience. Jan van Eyck, for example, used it to paint the dress of the pale and pinch-faced woman in his famous Arnolfini
Portrait. This colour of dress was expensive because green fabric dyes were also rare; to get a good colour took skill and repeated dippings in several dye baths, such as weld ( yellow) and indigo ( blue).
By the final decades of the 19th century pale greens were more accessible, but still retained their allure. Minty shades evoked ideas of spring and new beginnings: perfect for the birth of an optimistic new century. They were especially beloved by Art Deco and Art Nouveau designers, who paired them with creams, whites and golds, and although the trend for all things Art Deco has died down a little now, pale duck-egg shades remain a design classic. They look wonderful, for example, used on tiles in kitchens and bathrooms. Try Baked Tiles’ beautiful ‘Reminiscent’ in ‘Sea Green’ (£36 per square metre; bakedtiles.co.uk) or Deborah Osburn’s patterned turquoise ‘Tulip Carnations’ (£43 for ten; cletile.com).
The word iconic is overused, but in the case of Tiffany Blue it feels well-deserved: this particular shade of forget-me-not will always feel like something special.