From the late 1880s to the early 1900s, Tiffany & Co. of New York created a highly embellished series of deluxe handguns and rifles from some of the period’s leading firearms manufacturers including Colt, Winchester and most notably Smith & Wesson. These high art firearms are the epitome of the Art Nouveau movement and were special ordered by Tiffany’s customers or commissioned by the manufacturer for use as showpieces in exhibitions, most notably the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. This exceptionally rare S&W .38 DA 3rd Model revolver is embellished in the classic Art Nouveau style and is signed by Tiffany & Co. While Tiffany did some work for S&W in the 1870s, no work of this magnitude was executed until the 1890s, and they were intended to be showpieces for the World's Columbian Expedition of 1893, the Exposition Universelle in Paris of 1900 and the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY in 1901. The number of surviving Tiffany S&Ws remains unknown. In R.L. Wilson's "Winchester: The Golden Age of American Gunmaking and the Winchester 1 of 1000," a Tiffany S&W is pictured and identified as one of those displayed in the S&W exhibit in the Department of Liberal Arts at the World's Fair, and additional information and examples are documented in Wilson's "Steel Canvas" and Neal and Jinks' "Smith & Wesson 1857-1945." The S&W World's Fair exhibit was entitled "Tiffany at The World's Columbian Exposition". These revolvers were a .44 Double Action, .32 Single Action, .38 Double Action and .38 Safety Hammerless. An advertisement taken out by S&W in the Youth's Companion dated May 4, 1893 described the exhibit as "Beauty of Design and Finish". This same ad was, interestingly enough, S&W's only published attempt in the 19th century to promote decorated handguns of any kind (including factory engraved samples). Third Model S&W DA revolvers were manufactured between 1884 and 1895. The front sight, cylinder, top strap and barrel feature the distinctive Tiffany acid etched geometric and scroll engraving. The balance of the finish on the barrel and the background on the engraved components is the Tiffany lightly textured matte background. The hammer and trigger are casehardened, and the trigger guard and cylinder latch are blue. The solid cast sterling silver Tiffany grip is constructed in one-piece and covers the entire lower frame and recoil shield and is attached to the revolver so masterfully the only visible place where it is secured is at the barrel hinge by original Tiffany silver plated screws. The elongated grip is fluted and features a beautiful scroll pattern. The butt of the grip is cuffed and features a wonderfully done, intricate relief scroll pattern, all against a frosted darkened background. Like most major firearm manufacturers of the time, engravers were not allowed to sign their own work. Amazingly, Tiffany was allowed to mark the piece made on special order as well as those made for private customers. The revolver is signed "TIFFANY & CO./STERLING/T" on a separate silver plate located ahead of the trigger guard. The frame lacks a visible serial number. The barrel has the serial number "10501," the rear cylinder face has the serial number "284640," and "640" is on the barrel latch. The largest public display of Tiffany embellished 19th century arms can be viewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Gallery 372. The lions share of the display was donated and or sold by Dr. Gerald Klaz.
Very good. The barrel and cylinder have a smooth matte gray textured finish with of original silver plating and clear etching and minor spotting concentrated on the cylinder flutes. 60% original case colors remain on the hammer and trigger. 90% original blue remains on the trigger guard. The silver grip has an attractive toned untouched age appearance. Mechanically excellent. Tiffany & Co. Smith & Wesson revolvers are some the rarest high art firearms in existence. Don't let this one of a kind piece of S&W history slip away! A must have for the serious S&W collector! Provenance: Dr. Gerald Klaz collection
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