Meme Accuses Tiffany & Co Of Copying Slave Collar
If you’ve been poking around on social media today, you’ve probably run across a Facebook post that looks like this:
Some believe that Tiffany made luxe slave collars for rich women to place on their main hand-maiden house slaves, then shifted the style to the mainstream once slavery was abolished. Others say it was the slave collar that inspired the style of the new chains. Either way…it sparked discussion and of course led to tons of people renouncing the brand, vowing to sell all their Tiffany jewelry, flooding Tiffany’s twitter account…and making memes like these:
So has Tiffany been selling nouveau slave chains with a pricey tag all this time??? Have black women wearing these been tricked into branding themselves as slaves???
As it turns out…that’s not QUITE the case. But it’s up for a bit of debate.
Although this pic has probably been floating around your feed masquerading as part of an exhibit featured in the brand new National Museum of African American History and Culture…that’s false. In fact, there’s no such slave collar featured in the museum at all, nor is there any mention of Tiffany & Co. creating the collar NOR of the jeweler modeling their “Return To Tiffany” collection after the collar.
Now, according to Snopes.com, The photo ACTUALLY comes from The Lest We Forget Black Holocaust Museum of Philadelphia (LWFSM), and instead of being taken yesterday, it was actually taken last May. The caption in the photo reads:
This 18th Century Brass Slave Collar with an engraved name (Patterson), fancy etchings and heart shaped pendant was favored by wealthy, white slave mistresses. However, it was not worn by them; instead it was used on her female slave. The collar was fitted around a negro slave’s neck and attached to a leash as her [indecipherable] … her around like a pet. Years later, famed [indecipherable, Charles] Lewis Tiffany, founder of Tiffany & [Co. Jewelers] used this infamous collar as a prototype to design his best-selling, choker necklace which [indecipherable] has a heart-shaped pendant attached. The necklace remains very popular today.
So Tiffany definitely did not make or manufacture luxury slave collars for anyone. The company was founded in 1837, and the collar in the exhibit is from the 1700’s. BUT the collar still may have served as inspiration for the new choker necklaces…
According to this exhibit, Tiffany’s founder Charles Lewis Tiffany was indeed directly inspired by the style of the collar and personally modeled the pendants in question after it. HOWEVER this also remains up for heavy debate, since the collar itself is from the 18th century, Charles Lewis Tiffany died in 1902, but the heart-shaped “Return To Tiffany” pendant necklaces weren’t introduced until around 1969. You can be the judge. It’s possible but not necessarily proven.
Now what IS 100% true…Tiffany was largely started with $1000 ($15,000 by today’s inflation) that Charles gained through the cotton trade. Naturally, the use of slave labor is what even made the original seed money for the jewelry brand available. But truthfully…what US company wasn’t launched with the help of slave labor?
So…do YOU feel compelled to toss your Tiffany out of the window after seeing these stories about the company’s most popular style?