The Adams Vase

Designer: Designed by Paulding Farnham (1859–1927)

Manufacturer: Manufactured by Tiffany & Co. (1837–present)

Date: 1893–95

Geography: Made in New York, New York, United States

Culture: American

Medium: Gold, amethysts, spessartites, tourmalines, fresh water pearls, quartzes, rock crystal, and enamel

Dimensions: Overall: 19 7/16 x 13 x 9 1/4 in. (49.4 x 33 x 23.5 cm); 352 oz. 18 dwt. (10977 g)
Body: H. 18 7/8 in. (47.9 cm)
Cover: 4 1/4 x 4 13/16 in. (10.8 x 12.2 cm); 19 oz. 6 dwt. (600.1 g)

Classification: Metal

Credit Line: Gift of Edward D. Adams, 1904

Accession Number: 04.1a–c


This vase was commissioned as a testimonial to Edward Dean Adams, who retired as chairman of the board of the American Cotton Oil Company in 1891 after rescuing the firm from financial ruin. Appropriately, the cotton plant inspired the design of the vase. The bell-shaped cotton flower suggested the form and the enameled colors of the body; the rock crystal of the cover represents the white cotton. The materials used in its manufacture all derive "from the rivers and mountains of America," as stipulated by the board. The decoration includes symbols alluding to the cotton industry, agriculture, commerce, and finance.
During the last half of the nineteenth century, explanatory material was often issued to publicize the completion of an unusual work of art. The Tiffany book describing the Adams Vase included a list of the craftsmen who had worked on it: three draftsmen, fifteen modelers, eighteen goldsmiths, twenty-one chasers, twelve finishers, four molders, three turners, two enamelers, three stonecutters, and two lapidaries. Paulding Farnham, director of the jewelry division at Tiffany & Company, was responsible for the design of this exquisite object. It was exhibited in 1900 at the Exposition Universelle in Paris and presented to the Metropolitan Museum in 1904 by Edward Dean Adams.