She’s one-part Audrey Hepburn glamor and one-part 1980s excess. But underneath it all, she’s rich with history and meaning.
Thanks to Virginia for suggesting Tiffany as our Baby Name of the Day.
Let’s begin in the middle: Charles Lewis Tiffany established a New York City emporium back in 1837. After a few years of selling miscellaneous high end items, Charles switched the emphasis to jewelry, and adopted the particular shade of blue we still associate with Tiffany’s today.
Charles’ firstborn, Louis Comfort Tiffany, a mix of artist and entrepreneur, made his name in stained glass.
But it is the jewelry store that put the name on the map. Truman Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s was adapted for the big screen in 1961, with Audrey Hepburn in the role of Holly Golightly. No character in the film answered to the name Tiffany – it was a direct reference to the store, a place Holly said, ” … calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it. Nothing very bad could happen to you there.”
In 1962, Tiffany entered the US Top 1000 for girls, and she climbed rapidly, reaching #99 in 1970, and #14 in 1980.
It wasn’t just about the movie, though Breakfast was both a box office smash and a critical success. Tiffany arrived just as we were discovering names like Stephanie and Kimberly, Courtney and Brittany, Lindsey and Lindsay.
Each of those names has history, more than you might guess – and Tiffany is no exception.
Saint Theophanes lived in the 700s, and the name remained in use for centuries. Theophania was the most common feminine form. Theophany is another name for the feast of Epiphany – January 6. In simplest terms, it closes the Christmas season as the traditional day the Three Wise Men arrive at the manger to greet the newborn Jesus.
Girls born on the Feast of Epiphany were named Tiffania or Tiffany. The three-syllable, ends-in-y construction was popular in the Middle Ages, the era of Margery and Cecily. Tiffany also became a surname, from the same sources – hence, Charles Lewis all those years later. Actor Richard Tiffany Gere has his mom’s maiden name in the middle spot.
Suddenly, Tiffany is less of an aspirational brand name like Chanel and more of a rich historical possibility.
Except that all of those Tiffanys born in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s left their mark:
- 1971’s Diamonds are Forever introduced Bond girl Tiffany Case. Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel used the name, too, putting him a few years ahead of Capote.
- Tiffany Darwish dropped her surname and hit it big touring shopping malls and belting out catchy pop hits in the late 80s.
- Actresses include Tiffany Dupont, who played Frannie on Greek.
- It’s a starbaby name, too, thanks to Donald Trump and Marla Maples, who welcomed Tiffany in 1993.
Overall, Tiffany is suffering the same fate as many a once-popular name. Despite her roots, she’s tied to a recent decade. And yet, if this is a family name, I find her appealing in the middle spot. And she could be re-discovered in another few generations by parents seeking to honor all of those great-grandma Tiffanys.