Our creative director, Cat How, looks at the history of Tiffany & Co.'s iconic hue — Pantone 1837 — which bears the same number as the year the company was founded.
It is hard to think of brand colour as powerful, or as emotive, as “Tiffany Blue”. Tiffany & Co. — the American luxury jewellery retailer headquartered in New York City — is internationally renowned for its diamond and sterling silver jewellery. But its brand colour is just as iconic.
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"Tiffany Blue” has been the brand’s identifying colour since 1845, and is the colloquial name for the light robin-egg blue associated with the company created by Charles Tiffany and John Young in 1837.
The colour was chosen by Tiffany for the cover of their Blue Book, first published in 1845, which documented some of the world’s most precious and rare stones — including diamonds obtained from French and Spanish aristocracy. Since then, Tiffany & Co. have used the colour extensively on promotional materials - including their now signature blue jewellery box.
But it was not until 2001, when the brand approached Pantone to standardise their iconic shade, that the colour became a legal asset in its own right. Tiffany & Co. wanted to ensure that no matter where it was in the world, and no matter what medium the colour was reproduced in, it would be instantly recognisable.
“Colour is a signifier, one that commands our attention"“Colour is a signifier, one that commands our attention"
Tiffany Blue — or Pantone 1837 — is now defined by the Pantone Colour Institute’s custom colour program. It is a private custom colour of Tiffany & Co. which bears the same number (1837) on the Pantone Matching System (PMS) of the year the company was founded. Also known as “1837 Blue”, it is protected as a colour trademark by Tiffany & Co., and therefore not publicly available (which is why you can’t find it printed in the Pantone Matching System swatch books).
It’s important to note that a colour trademark refers to only specific things. Tiffany & Co. only own that “Tiffany Blue” in situations where it could be confused with their products. Tiffany & Co. owns “robin-egg blue” for its boxes and bags. You can paint your house that colour, for example, without having a problem. So the term “trademark” shouldn’t be confused with ownership of a particular colour. Trademarking a colour simply allows a company to use a particular combination and shade of colour in its own industry.
And what a shade that is. In an RGB colour space, HEX #0abab5 (or “Tiffany Blue”) is composed of 3.9% red, 72.9% green and 71% blue. Whereas in a CMYK colour space, it is composed of 94.6% cyan, 0% magenta, 2.7% yellow and 27.1% black. While we’re at it, it has a hue angle of 178.3 degrees, a saturation of 89.8% and a lightness of 38.4%.
More lyrically , this colour is a real beauty. A cool and fresh aquatic blue shade, it speaks of vibrancy, optimism and escape. It transports you to a world of timeless sophistication, filled with luxury and delight. It is often mistaken for teal (which is a completely different colour); and although considered blue - as the RGB colour readings show above - it is actually more green than blue in composition.
But it is precisely this beguiling mix that has fascinated consumers for so long. With around 80% of human experience filtered through our eyes, visual cues are vital to successfully getting a message across. More even so than text or shape, the colour that a brand chooses is its calling card, and is incredibly important in the communication of that brand. The complexity of a colour such as “Tiffany Blue” is, in part, why it is now globally recognised as an iconic brand colour. As Laurie Pressman, Vice President of Pantone Colour Institute says,
“Colour is a signifier, one that commands our attention, and enables companies to establish a brand identity that can become larger than life. It’s crucial when making colour decisions for your brand or product to consider how your shade will broadcast the image of the company.”
When we look at a brand, we see it as a person. Colour should be seen in this way too. If each colour has its own message, resonance and meaning — the more you are able to harness this fundamental design element in your brand identity, the more you will be able to leverage its powerful effects.
Tiffany & Co. have shown how a colour can create a feeling, a mood, which is as powerful (and arguably can even transcend) the product it sells. Colour is emotive, and speaks to a more spiritual part of the human psyche — one that cannot be measured in physical goods, but in something more ethereal. Timeless.
— Cat How, Creative Director & Co-Founder