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By Lynn Selich            Photography by Ann Chatillon

As I arrived last Friday morning to Tiffany & Co. South Coast Plaza, a polite security guard opened the enormous steel doors of the store ahead of regular schedule welcoming me and a select group of media and special guests to “Breakfast at Tiffany.”

A trip to Tiffany & Co. is always special, but I had no idea how exceptional the morning was going to be when I arrived.

Despite the early hour, a handsome crowd of fashionistas and jewelry aficionados came to learn about just what makes a Tiffany Diamond a rare and important object of desire. Tiffany is celebrating its 175th anniversary, and while I usually don’t chose retail as subject matter, this kind of access to one of the world’s greatest luxury brands I decided, was definitely something to write about!

Always gracious and dapper, Tiffany’s group director, Michael Botsko, welcomed everyone and introduced special guests Pamela Sharp, who made the trip down from Hollywood with actress Meagan Tandy, co-star of the television series “Jane by Design” and a former 2007 Miss California.

As we enjoyed a lovely Continental breakfast buffet, waiters served coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice and after a brief visit, guests followed Botsko in to the diamond salon where he expertly told us about the founding of the iconic jewelry store in 1837 by Charles Lewis Tiffany and partners in New York City.

The staff had prepared a display of an assortment of Tiffany’s most prized historic offerings, and it was fascinating to learn about both the history of the 175 year old company, as well as the value and standards that have been its hallmark.

As we entered the salon, on top of the glass showcase sitting on velvet pads were classic diamond engagement rings some valued between a cool $500,000 and $1,000,000. To say the room sparkled is a gross understatement!

I looked back at the armed guard and he smiled pleasantly.

We all marveled at Botsko’s explanation of the difference between color, clarity, cut and carat weight. As Actress Tandy slipped on a stunning 13.5 carat fancy yellow diamond engagement ring in a classic Tiffany prong setting, we all “oohed” and “aahed” as cameras flashed.

My favorite part of the morning was trying on a 5-plus carat Tiffany diamond cushion cut engagement ring that was an exceptional “D” colored stone, one of the finest available. Botsko explained to us that many customers choose the 5 carat ring over the larger 13.5 carat diamond because of its exceptional quality.

Hmmmmm, now that would be a tough decision.

Botsko also talked in detail about the romantic history of the company including news about the resetting of the iconic Tiffany Diamond which has been mounted as a necklace and is on display in New York at the 5th Avenue flagship store.

With the store opening at 10:00 a.m., we pulled ourselves away to start the day, and as I walked back out those giant doors I thanked Michael and his staff for providing us with a rare up-close-and-personal birthday party with Tiffany & Co. – 175 years young.

I’m not sure that diamonds are really a girl’s best friend, but they can sure make you feel like a million.

www.tiffany.com