Why Tiffany’s heart shape necklace is a 1990s icon

tiffany and co heart necklace
Why Tiffany’s heart shape necklace is a 1990s icongetty images - Getty Images

For those of us born in the late Eighties and early Nineties, the ‘Return To Tiffany’ necklace was the ultimate jewel of our teenage years. When Legally Blonde was released in 2001, the instantly recognisable pendant famously stamped with ‘Return To Tiffany’ adorned the neck and wrist of protagonist Elle Woods, and an icon was born.

It’s worth noting that Reese Witherspoon wasn’t the only cast member to wear the design – several of her on-screen sorority sisters, and even her chihuahua, Bruiser, were also part of the Tiffany-wearing tribe. Now, with 1990s' jewellery trends once more all the rage (think chokers and arm cuffs at every turn) the iconic design has regained its cool credentials once more.

Return to Tiffany: The history

In 1966, Tiffany first began to sell key tags featuring the phrase: ‘Please Return to Tiffany & Co. New York’. Each key tag was given a unique registration number, to ensure that if an owner was separated from their key, they could be reunited at the maison’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue.

The stamp has since become somewhat of badge of honour, representing the New York heritage of the brand and its legacy of prestigious craftsmanship. This led to the maison launching the first ‘Return to Tiffany’ tag necklace in 1980 – a 14-karat yellow gold design with a heart-shaped pendant, also available on a screwball key ring.

It was in 1997, however, that Tiffany expanded the collection to include sterling silver necklaces with the same tag, just without the reference numbers. Jewellery geeks will be keen to learn that instead of the reference number, the tag featured an engraved ‘925’; Tiffany was the first maison to use this hallmark which was later adopted across the US a benchmark of authentic, good-quality silver.

breakfast at tiffanys
Audrey Hepburn shopping in 'Breakfast At Tiffany's' - Shutterstock

Why is it so iconic?

The ‘Return To Tiffany collection’ captured a mood in the early 2000s like no other piece of jewellery managed to do so – part of its charm was that for around £200 you could buy a slice of one of the world’s most illustrious jewellery-making maisons; placing the necklace indelibly at the top of birthday wish lists for every girl in her teens and twenties.

Celebrities that dominated the media at the time, such as Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, were often spotted wearing 18-karat yellow gold versions of the design, making it the ultimate aspirational jewel, even if you could only afford to save up for the silver version with your Saturday job.

Who wears them?

The ‘Return to Tiffany’ collection is far from forgotten. Just last year, Ariana Grande was spotted wearing a pendant from the collection, which now includes rings, necklaces, cuffs and earrings, all engraved with the same iconic stamp. Styled with a black vest top and tracksuit bottoms, Grande epitomised the laidback luxe of this piece - it’s the kind of every day, nonchalant yet still precious piece that you can even wear to the gym. In the same year, the maison revived its popularity through a streetwear collaboration with cult skateboarding brand Supreme, releasing a capsule collection of designs that sold out in minutes - including a heart shape pendant on a ball chain that echoed the first ever iteration.

Where to buy

Buying directly from Tiffany is a sure-fire way to get the best selection of ‘Return To Tiffany’ designs in a choice of precious metals, or through some designer retailers such as Selfridges, but there are also a host of extra-special vintage pieces waiting to be found online. Luxury resale marketplaces 1st Dibs and Vestiaire Collective both boast a treasure trove of Tiffany pieces: we love this filigree rose-gold heart pendant, which is studded with a rainbow of precious stones, while a sleek heart-and-key design makes the ultimate romantic gesture (especially when encrusted with diamonds).

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