The arrival of Elsa Peretti at Tiffany & Co. in 1974 signaled a revolution in the world of jewelry design. Her collections of organic, sensual forms seduced the world with their elegant simplicity. A masterful artisan, Peretti explored nature with the acumen of a scientist and the vision of a sculptor, though her preferred title is “craftswoman.” Peretti said her designs are dictated by common sense. “For me, good line and good form are timeless.”
Elsa Peretti is celebrated around the world for her groundbreaking designs and innovative jewelry. Powerfully feminine with an effortless ease, the Bone cuff is one of those designs that has been revered for decades. Formed in the shape of a wrist bone, the iconic cuff embodies the organic sensuality of Peretti’s aesthetic vocabulary. Her revolutionary Diamonds by the Yard® collection combines 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 explained. “They look like drops of light, like a stream—very modern.” Bean design®, Open Heart and Bottle collections reflect her unique ability to give designs a fluid and tactile quality. Peretti’s Snake, Scorpion and her quintessential Mesh jewelry are a testament to how her jewelry effortlessly drapes and contours with the body.
Born in Italy and educated in Rome and Switzerland, Peretti 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 legendary designer Halston, who became her longtime friend and frequent collaborator. Among her notable collaborators was renowned fashion photographer Hiro. “I have been inspired by Elsa’s magnificent designs for over 45 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 sterling 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 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, 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 in New York City—the first endowed professorship in the venerated institute’s history. 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 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 was also awarded the prestigious Leonardo da Vinci Lifetime Achievement Award for Jewelry and Fashion Design in 2019, which was presented during the Florence Biennale event.
Elsa Peretti’s designs are available at Tiffany & Co. stores worldwide and are also in the permanent collections of the British Museum in London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, 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.”
Elsa’s poetic designs and legacy will remain a constant inspiration for generations to come. Our hearts go out to her family, friends and family of artisans and craftspeople who realized her fantasies, she will be deeply missed by all of us at Tiffany & Co.
Tiffany, Tiffany & Co. and T&CO. are trademarks of Tiffany and Company and its affiliates.
Elsa Peretti, Diamonds by the Yard and Bean are trademarks of Elsa Peretti.