The arrival of Elsa Peretti at Tiffany & Co. in 1974 signaled a revolution in jewelry design. Her collections of organic, sensual forms seduced the world with their elegant simplicity. A masterful artisan, Peretti explores nature with the acumen of a scientist and the vision of a sculptor, though her preferred title is “craftswoman.”
“The day Elsa Peretti became a part of Tiffany & Co. was the day we entered a new era in our history of design innovation,” said Michael J. Kowalski, Chairman of the Board, Tiffany & Co. Peretti has said her designs are dictated by common sense. “For me, good line and good form are timeless.”
Among her acclaimed creations is the revolutionary Diamonds by the Yard®, a combination of fine, fluid chains and bezel-set stones that forever changed the role of diamonds in fashion. “If diamonds are mounted like this the light is different,” she explains. “They look like drops of light, like a stream—very modern.” The Open Heart is one of the most original jewelry designs of all time. Its sculptural beauty is reflected in the Bone Cuff; sensual Bean®, which is based on the seed as origin of life; Teardrop, symbolizing deepest feeling and the drop shape; Eternal Circle, a seamless expression of style; Starfish, a reflection of the mystery of sea and sky; and Aegean, inspired by chain links sculpted by centuries of water and sand.
Born in Italy and educated in Rome and Switzerland, she eventually returned to Rome to pursue a degree in interior design. By 1969 she had established herself as a fashion model in New York and Barcelona, and was also beginning to design her own jewelry. American fashion designer Giorgio di Sant'Angelo used a few of her pieces in a fashion show, which were an instant success. It was during this time that she met the legendary designer Halston, who became her longtime friend and frequent collaborator. Among her notable collaborators is renowned fashion photographer Hiro. “I have been inspired by Elsa’s magnificent designs for more than forty years,” he says. “They are organic and sensual; you can feel the life pulsing through them.”
In the early 1980s, her collections for Tiffany were expanded to include china, crystal and silver designs for the home. Like her jewelry, these new designs were praised for their fluid shape and tactile quality. “Touch is important: I get lots of my inspiration from tactile things,” she says. They represent love for a life well-lived, the warmth of a generous host and the idea that beauty and utility should always be as one. Her longtime friend, William Chaney, Chairman of the Board of Tiffany & Co. from 1984 to 2003 expressed his view that “Elsa Peretti, through her aesthetic genius and her consistent pursuit of design perfection, has earned recognition as the world's most respected and most successful jewelry designer."
In 1999 Elsa Peretti celebrated her 25th anniversary with Tiffany & Co. In recognition of her remarkable career, Tiffany established the Elsa Peretti Professorship in Jewelry Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology, the first endowed professorship in the history of FIT. In 2001 the designer was presented with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from FIT. In further tribute, the Elsa Peretti jewelry case in Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue flagship store was designated a Tiffany landmark. Other awards Elsa Peretti has received include the 1971 Coty Award for Jewelry, followed by the Rhode Island School of Design President's Fellow Award in 1981. In 1996, the Council of Fashion Designers of America named her Accessory Designer of the Year.
Elsa Peretti’s designs are available at Tiffany & Co. stores worldwide and are also in the permanent collections of the British Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas.
Few designs maintain their style and beauty for decades, but Peretti’s are as modern today as ever. They epitomize a philosophy that was clear from the beginning. In Peretti’s own words: “Style is to be simple.”
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ELSA PERETTI, DIAMONDS BY THE YARD and BEAN are trademarks of Elsa Peretti.