John Chandler Moore (1803? – 1874) is more well known as John C. Moore, the great silversmith who worked exclusively for Charles Tiffany and Tiffany & Co. after 1851. His son, Edward, would run the silver department at Tiffany’s during the era of its greatest creativity.
Moore first gained fame for his pieces, sold through the jeweler Ball, Black & Co., that were made in the rococo revival style, then called the ‘French’ style. His most famous work from this period is the Collins tea service, made of solid gold, that was displayed at the 1851 and 1853 World’s Fairs to great acclaim.
Moore decided to tie his fortune to the emerging ‘French’ style designs of the rococo revival in both holloware and flatware. He was an early adapter of French forms for the American market. This business decision by Moore (possibly helped by his son Edward) put him in the position to become the leading silversmith of his generation.
In 1851, when Tiffany & Co, signed the agreement with John C. Moore to make hollowware pieces, Moore was instructed to follow the standard for English sterling:-925 parts per 1,000 parts silver-which was the standard eventually adopted by the United States. Tiffany later merged operations with Moore, who enlisted the help of his son, Edward. The younger Moore would become the guiding force behind Tiffany’s silverware business for the next forty years.
John C. Moore’s flatware is relatively unknown. Likely, Tiffany had him specialize in holloware because it procured flatware from other silversmiths, including John Polhamus and Henry Hebbard. Both of these smiths may have been more productive and hence less expensive due to their specialization in flatware.
However, before joining Tiffany, John C. Moore was the second American silversmith (after Michael Gibney) to patent silver flatware designs. Gibney received the first and second silver flatware design patents, numbers 26 (actual name unknown) in 1844) and 59 (‘Tuscan’ in 1846).
In April and May of 1847, Moore received patent numbers 114 (Louis XIV) and 124 (pattern name unknown). John C Moore’s design patent number 114 is known today as John Polhamus’ Louis XIV pattern and was designed in the rococo or ‘French’ style with scrolls and foliate embellishments. Moore must have sold the rights and dies to Polhamus, possibly in tandem with his agreement to work exclusively for Tiffany.
John C Moore’s design patent 124 is described in the patent application as having a ‘shell’ ornament at the top of the handle. While the name of this pattern is unknown and it resembles the then popular Prince Albert pattern, the shell design clearly refers to the ‘rocaille’ (French for ‘shell’) or rococo decoration popular in France during the 2nd quarter of the 18th century.
The rapid expansion of American wealth in the 19th Century created a demand for silver objects, which was further fueled by the discovery of extensive silver deposits in the West. Tiffany crafted the abundant metal into opulent designs that epitomized the sumptuous décor and dining habits of the Gilded Age.
The varied motifs were derived from Moore’s vast design library. His countless volumes on architecture, horticulture and metallurgy, as well as collections of Japanese lacquer, Islamic glass, Middle and Far Eastern tiles and textiles, and European porcelains, formed the basis of the “”Tiffany School,” America’s first school of design.
The silver designs inspired by Moore’s library won top awards at world’s fairs of the late 19th century. At the 1878 Paris fair, Tiffany received the Grand Prize for Excellence, the first given to an American silversmith. Much attention was paid to the company’s innovative Japanesque-style silver, designs of a refined simplicity with hammered surfaces, applied three-dimensional flora and fauna, and inlaid mixed metals. Unsurpassed in the history of American silver, Tiffany’s Japanesque silver had an important and modernizing influence on American and European decorative arts.
Within only a few years, Tiffany was recognized as the leader of American silver. Soon after his partnership with Tiffany, Moore retired from the business and turned over control to his son, Edward C. Moore (1827-1891), a decision Tiffany emphatically approved. By the time Edward joined forces with Tiffany, he was established as a seasoned silversmith, with over a decade of experience working in partnership with his father. This proved to be the beginning of an association that lasted forty years during which Edward C. Moore was the guiding genius of Tiffany’s silver business.
Under Moore’s reign, which lasted until his death in 1891, Tiffany & Co. became the first American company to adopt the 925/1000 silver standard. The silver workshops grew from a handful of artisans to over 500 and adopted the latest innovations in the trade.
Moore’s designs during this early period were largely influenced by the Classical Revival and Rococo styles. Tiffany’s Classical Revival pieces were characterized by full, simple forms accented with Greek key or elegant beaded-edge borders. The impact of European tastes are reflected in the robust Rococo examples, which display scrolling feet and restrained repoussé ornamentation with naturalistic components such as leaf and vine handles and animal finials.
After the Moore silversmithing firm was absorbed into Tiffany & Co. (about 1870) and it began the production of its own silverware, it became the tradition to mark each piece with the initial of the Artistic Director or President of the firm. This practice continued until the mid-1960.
Moore’s personal love for art, especially Oriental art (an important precursor to Art Nouveau), became apparent during the time between the end of the Civil War until around the late 1880s. It was during this time that Tiffany began to capitalize on the Victorian taste for extravagant dining and living. Complete, matched sets of flatware became the vogue. While they had long carried flatware lines of other manufacturers, Tiffany began to design and manufacture their own flatware services.
Edward C. Moore’s collection contains somewhere between 1,600 and 1,700 pieces. He first began to study objects to help inform his designs, and subsequently began to collect them. At one time he devoted his attention to Japanese and Chinese porcelains, and later older Persian wares. Over time he became interested in old glass and lusterware porcelains.
The Moores, both father and son, helped to create the “golden age” of Tiffany silver and the emergence of the great flatware sets and hollowware patterns that came onto the market between the years 1868 and 1872. Tiffany introduced 13 sterling silver flatware patterns and numerous variations of their patterns. Recognized for their innovation in both design and manufacture, Tiffany & Co. became the premier manufacturer of fine sterling flatware, a reputation it still holds today.The company’s celebrated flatware patterns include Century, created in 1937 to commemorate the company’s 100th anniversary; and Bamboo, introduced in 1965 and winner of the International Design Award. Each design represents the rich heritage of Tiffany silver that for generations has welcomed guests into beautifully appointed homes and cast a lustrous glow over life’s most memorable occasions.Sell John Chandler Moore All Artists