"type of thin, transparent fabric," c.1600; earlier a common name for the festival of the Epiphany (early 14c.; in Anglo-Fr. from late 13c.), from O.Fr. Tifinie, Tiphanie
(c.1200), from L.L. Theophania
"Theophany," another name for the Epiphany, from Gk. theophania
"the manifestation of a god." Also popular in O.Fr. and M.E. as a name given to girls born on Epiphany Day. The fabric sense is found only in English and is of obscure origin and uncertain relation to the other meanings, unless as a fanciful allusion to "manifestation:"
"The invention of that fine silke, Tiffanie, Sarcenet, and Cypres, which instead of apparell to cover and hide, shew women naked through them." [Holland's "Pliny," 1601]
The fashionable N.Y. jewelry firm Tiffany & Co. (1895) is named for its founder, goldsmith Charles L. Tiffany (1812-1902) and his son, Louis C. Tiffany (1848-1933), who was the Art Nouveau decorator noted for his glassware. The surname is attested in Eng. from 1206.