How Tiffany’s Iconic Box Became the World’s Most Popular Package

Tiffany Blue Box

Tiffany Blue Box

For the sake of you intellectual-property aficionados out there, the color is No. 1837 on the Pantone Matching System chart. It is not commercially available; since a 1998 filing with the federal government, the color is trademarked. The packaging on which the color appears is also trademarked, as is the white satin ribbon tied around said packaging. In all, it is very possibly the most recognizable and most desired retail container in history.

It’s the Tiffany Blue Box—and yes, the term “Tiffany Blue Box” is trademarked, too.

Most brands would kill for the sort of instant recognition value of Tiffany & Co.’s robin’s egg blue and that tiny box. As Bernd H. Schmitt wrote in his 1999 book Experiential Marketing, “It’s happened more than once that someone has put a gift, bought elsewhere, into a Tiffany box in order to enhance its value.” As if there were any doubt, empty Tiffany boxes are sold on sites like Etsy and eBay—at least until Tiffany’s attorneys find out.

But just how did a little turquoise-colored cardboard box become the cubic embodiment of our material dreams and desires?

It started in 1845, when Charles Lewis Tiffany put out a catalog for his “stationery and fancy goods” store at 259 Broadway in New York. The shop, opened with a $1,000 loan, had been in business just eight years but had already made a name for itself by selling fine silver wrought in the new “American style,” a clean, natural look that scuttled the fussy ornateness of the Old World. Read more.