The Gun as Art: Tiffany Colts from Two Eras

The famous American jewelry company Tiffany & Co has a long history of offering decorative firearms, and today I’m looking at two of them. One is a cartridge conversion Colt from the 1870s, engraved by Nimschke and fitted with a silver-plated Tiffany “Mexican Eagle” grip. The other is a modern-production 1860 Army designed by Tiffany for the US Historical Society and produced by Andrew Bourbon.

While I do not normally have a particular taste for embellished and engraved guns, I think it’s very interesting to see the difference in style between the two periods – the change in what people find appealing in “the gun as art.”


  1. This is wildly off topic but: why do you so often wear a wooly pully (nato sweater) in your videos. I feel it fits you rather well even if I do look like a jackass in mine.

  2. While at an antique arms show a few years ago, Gary Burghoff (Radar from MASH) allowed me to closely examine some of his engraved Colts, including some of White’s work. Even under magnification, the workmanship is incredible. Never intended to be used- art only.

  3. It would be interested to compare handguns aesthetic to architecture, for example for me WHITNEY WOLVERINE automatic pistol is clearly inspired by streamline (Art Deco)

    Also I found PPSh-41 with golden decoration
    So even the most utilitarian weapons can be used as base.
    Notice Знак «Гвардия» (sign “Guard”) on stock and ribbon of Орден Славы (Order of Glory), note that these are 2 different things, I am not sure why were put together (sign “Guard” is ribbon-less)

  4. Decoration is a very individual thing.

    I do like the work that some of the Italian guys are doing with traditional scroll and with Bullino engraving, but it belongs on a sidelock side by side, that will cost more than a good house in a good neighbourhood…
    And the gold belongs on the front sight bead, the “S” for safe, and as corrosion protection INSIDE THE LOCKWORK, ONLY.

    Put gold anywhere else and imo it looks like Luis Quatorze / Nikolai Ceasescu / Idi Amin level, of ostentatious poor taste. Yeah, I’m a snob.

    If engraving is going to go anywhere, the metal finish inside and out had better look like God created the parts, and fitted the wood.

    Actual colour case hardening, temper bluing and rust bluing look good.
    Colours produced with a torch and Gallic acid (if you can still get the stuff!) Are just blatant if you know what you are looking at.

    Machine or laser or acid etch engraving on a working gun…
    Squeal for Bubba!

  5. The conversion Colt is a 1861 Navy .38 Richards/Mason conversion, which Colt produced as both conversions of existing 1861s and as new builds from about 1870 to 1874.

    They were made in both centerfire and rimfire for commercial sale and customer conversion, except for 2,097 1851s and 1861s returned to Hartford by U.S. Navy BuOrd, which were all converted to .38 Colt Centerfire. The latter are known as “Navy-Navy” conversions to distinguish them from the commercial/private owner version. All “Navy-Navy” .38s have USN property stamps.

    Personally speaking, I find the engraved “shield” behind the hammer on the .44 1860 Army very attractive on the polished brass-plated frame, and would consider it on a Colt percussion or cartridge conversion if I ever could afford one. The mother-of-pearl grips, not so much; too brittle in service, and I remember what a certain general said about them.

    As for the rest of the .44, much as I respect the skill of the engraver, I have to wonder what the person who designed the motif was smoking at the time.



  6. I’d like to go over the revolvers with a magnifying glass to see the fine detail in the jewlers work. It’s not for everyone. I’d rather have a shooter than a wall hanger,but the time and patience it takes to turn a firearm into a engraved collecting piece needs to be appreciated. Try it out sometime,takes skill most don’t have.

  7. This is another one of those situations where I can admire the workmanship and skill that went into making them, but the end result is just so butt-ugly it hurts.

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