Tiffany & Co. is of course well known for their fine jewelry, but did you know that they also produced fine art firearms?
Well known primarily for their exquisite jewelry than anything else, many of us might be surprised to learn that Tiffany & Co. has also sold firearms and edged weapons. Forgotten Weapons Editor Ian McCollum introduces the Tiffany and weapons connection by saying, “Tiffany, actually, since about the 1850s, has marketed, frankly, the sword or gun as art.”
McCollum shares two such artful firearms that are being sold in this week’s James D. Julia Firearms Auction.
The first is an 1870s-era Tiffany Colt pistol, beautifully engraved and sporting cast bronze grips. The engraving by well-known 19th century master firearms engraver Louis Daniel Nimschke is impeccable, but it is the extravagant bronze grips that are the standout feature of this pistol.
The ‘Mexican Eagle’ style grips were also designed by Nimschke as one of four he created for Tiffany and Co. (The others include an ‘American Eagle,’ ‘Missionary and Child’ and a ‘Confederate Battle’ scene.) This particular set is left in bronze, although Tiffany also offered grips cast or plated in silver and sometimes in gold.
The grip relief is bold and would likely not make for comfortable handling of the gun, but while the pistol is operational it was really meant to serve as a presentation model anyway.
The second pistol is a 1994 modern-production 1860 Colt Army pistol. The ‘American Eagle’ design engraving on this piece was created in-house but was performed by modern master engraver Andrew Bourbon. As McCollum explains, while Tiffany’s did return to offering fine art firearms to their line in 1982, they do so on a commission-only basis.
This Colt, as McCollum exclaims, “…is just stunning,” and “exudes American patriotic spirit.” Finely engraved in gold and silver, and with pearl grips, the handgun is one of only two – each displaying a unique design – that were made for the U.S. Historical Society.
The detailed work on this gun is amazing, with intricately engraved feather work on the gold and silver plating, and even a front sight in the form of a feather tip.
While these two guns from the James Julia Auction are indeed exquisite examples of the “firearm as art”, it is worth scrolling through the entire auction catalog if you’re interested in such weaponry. There are a number of other beautifully engraved firearms on display, as well as many unengraved historical guns from both the modern era to early flintlocks.