Lessons From Tiffany and Co. ~ No. 2

Close to a year ago, I began a series entitled Lessons from Tiffany and Co., in which I recounted the day that ignited my love for Tiffany’s, a love which has held strong nearly a decade on.

As I noted in that post, Tiffany’s has become such an integral part of my life, and I have celebrated many milestones (i.e. my 30th birthday and honeymoon) with trips to Tiffany’s.  In fact, when travelling, I make a point of visiting Tiffany boutiques located close to the area, often choosing a piece to add to my collection.  So, as my husband and I prepare to jet off to Las Vegas next week, naturally one of the first things I did was note the Tiffany boutique locations (I believe there are four – sorry, Blake).

Over the past few days, whilst daydreaming of Tiffany’s in Las Vegas, I was reminded of the series that I started nearly 365 days ago, and thought it about time to add a second installment.

While I’m sure you know that Tiffany’s offers some of the world’s most exquisite jewelry, you may be surprised to know that Tiffany’s also offers free life lessons!  That’s right, one can learn a great deal about life from Tiffany and Co.  At least, I certainly have.

Intrigued?  Well, without further ado, I offer you the second of many Lessons from Tiffany and Company:

Lesson No. 2:

“With the right people and a shared commitment to the cause, even the roughest of diamonds can reach their brilliance.”  

 A few weeks back, I was perusing the Tiffany and Co. website (as one does), and I came across a feature that I had not seen before – The Journey of a Tiffany Diamond.  Beautifully-produced, the video allows the viewer to travel alongside the diamond from its unearthing to its “Blue Boxing”.

I have always admired the exquisite aesthetic of a Tiffany diamond; however, I hadn’t much considered its journey until now.  It is quite astonishing to see how a simple metastable allotrope of carbon can be transformed into something as brilliant as a Tiffany diamond.  How something so rough and unremarkable can, under the right circumstances, become a thing of great beauty.

What it takes to develop a diamond from rough to brilliance stayed on my mind for some time, as did the way in which Tiffany is able to do so unlike any other jeweler – through a combination of the right people (experts) and a share commitment to the cause (producing the world’s most exquisite diamonds).

I continued to think of these rough diamonds, and given that I have spent the bulk of my career engaged with those in the vulnerable sector, I began to see a likeness between these rough diamonds and individuals who are born into or come to find themselves in difficult circumstances.  As I continued to think about the journey a Tiffany diamond takes, I began to wonder what would happen if we took our most vulnerable on that same journey?

“Treasured from the moment they’re culled from the earth…”

When speaking of a diamond’s journey, Tiffany notes that they treasure that rough diamond from the moment it is unearthed.  While it may be dusty, dull and unremarkable at first glance, Tiffany looks beyond what it is to what it could be.

Unfortunately, society does not view our vulnerable population in the same way.  At first contact, those most vulnerable may appear unkempt, or behave in a way that is seen as socially unacceptable, and in response, we make snap judgements about who they are and their potential, or lack thereof.

However, what if we were to take a page from Tiffany’s, and treasure our most vulnerable from that first moment?  Choosing to see what they could be; choosing to see their brilliance.  I know this alone would not solve the complex problems facing our most vulnerable; however, acknowledging their potential is a wonderful place to start.

“…it [diamond] is delivered straight to our [Tiffany & Co.] own diamond cutting studio.  Here is where the stone takes shape in the hands of a Tiffany expert, who follows a unique geometric plan to reveal the diamond’s natural splendor.”

The next step in a Tiffany diamond’s journey is the diamond cutting studio.  There, experts study and identify the stone’s unique qualities, which informs the cut; and as Tiffany affirms, the precision of the cut is the most important factor in realizing the diamond’s beauty, so the “craftsperson’s technical expertise, exactitude and artistry are critical.”

As a society, do we spend enough time understanding our most vulnerable, in an effort to identify their unique qualities?  Do we use that understanding to develop suitable plans for our most vulnerable, or employ the right experts to help them each take shape?  Arguably, the precision with which one is nurtured, is also the most important factor in realizing an individual’s potential.

What I know for certain is that not everyone learns in the same manner, not everyone develops in the same way, and not everyone progresses at the same speed.  So, why as a society, do we continue to offer blanket solutions, where the needs of so many are left unmet?  Perhaps, what we need to do more of is strive to identify the unique needs of individuals, and then use what’s gained from that to inform specific development plans (their unique geometric pattern) for said individual.

It goes without saying that we should also continuing seeking out and involving the right experts, those who are best suited to develop these plans; those who do so based on reliable research, best practices and appropriate consultation.

If Tiffany’s would never cut two diamonds in the same way, why do we try to develop two individuals with the same plan?

“…at this stage in the diamond’s journey, a Tiffany polisher uses a polishing wheel sprinkled with diamond crystals to bring out the newly cut stone’s luster, symmetry and unique inner brilliance.”    

As our Tiffany diamond continues along its journey, it inevitably finds itself in the hands of an expert polisher, where all 57 facets of its geometric pattern are refined to reveal its true brilliance.

As mentioned above, while the precision of the cut appears to be most critical, without polish, a Tiffany diamond can never reach its potential.  Similarly, while the quality of a development plan may be the most critical to an individual’s success, without the polish, they too will not reach their potential.

In my mind, the polishers for our most vulnerable are those included in their support network – those who are responsible for refining the individual.  Polishers are those who understand the individual’s plan, who work with the experts to ensure the plan is adhered to, who will support the individual along their journey, and who will both bolster an individual’s strength and hold them accountable when needed.

“… the diamond is ready to be set.  Because every Tiffany diamond is unique, each setting is uniquely handcrafted so that the final design honours the diamond.  A Tiffany setter fashions a mounting out of platinum or 18k yellow or rose gold that gently clasps the stone at the girdle, so that light can freely enter and exit the diamond, releasing a beautiful spectrum of colours.  Each prong and basket is individually adjusted to reveal the beauty of the stone, requiring great accuracy, grace and care.”

It is in this stage that the Tiffany diamond’s true brilliance is revealed; however, this brilliance would never have been possible without all of the stages that came before. Each Tiffany diamond is carefully placed in a unique setting that honours the singular beauty of the stone and its incredible journey.

Just as a Tiffany diamond enjoys a unique setting that honours them, so too should our most vulnerable.  As discussed, the right cut (plan) is critical, so too is the polish; however, for our most vulnerable to truly shine, they have to be set in a space that honours them; that allows their light to freely enter and exit.

For me, I see these “settings” as one’s place of work (if able), and one’s community.  If one is able to work (or volunteer), then they should be encouraged to engage in something that compliments their unique design; something that amplifies their brilliance.

Ideally, one’s community should also be uniquely crafted, to further draw out their beauty.  One should feel complimented by the unique qualities of those around them, without fear of competition, criticism or discrimination.  A place where each individual’s unique qualities are revered and valued.

The journey of a Tiffany diamond can take roughly one year from earth to Blue Box, stopping a great many places along the way.  While guiding our most vulnerable along the same journey would take a considerable amount of time and effort, I am confident that with the Tiffany method (the right people and a shared commitment to the cause) even the roughest of diamonds would reach their brilliance, and what a beautiful sight that would be.

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  1. My favourite post to date, it very much resonated with my own thinking. My daughters both work for charities that help underprivileged members of society, I myself am involved with a charity that helps homeless women and my husband tutors and coaches kids from difficult backgrounds. To help someone shine, makes your own star shine brighter and there is nothing more beautiful and elegant than kindness. Just like Audrey. Thank you for this inspiring post Ashleigh, I will be sure to share it x

    1. I absolutely knew you would love it! I could have held on to it for a bit longer and refined it, but I was compelled to get it out in the universe, so I’m glad it resonated with you. Thank you for reading and sharing xoxo

  2. I feel like you wrote this post for me! I’m a veteran teacher in my 21st year who’s feeling VERY discouraged and worn out. It gave me pause to think of myself as someone who is “polishing” my students to help them reach their full brilliance. Thank you for this powerful perspective. (I really needed it today.)

    1. Jill, thank you very much for stopping by. I can only imagine how much your profession requires from your sprit, but you do such incredibly important work. You are that polish, helping to give shape to your students. Thank you for all you do!

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