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May 6, 2021

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Elsa Peretti, famed Tiffany jewelry designer, dies at 80

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NEW YORK – Elsa Peretti, who went from Halston model and Studio 54 regular in the 1960s and ’70s to one of the world’s most famous jewelry designers with timeless, fluid Tiffany & Co. collections often inspired by nature, has died. She was 80.

She died Thursday night in her sleep at home in a small village outside Barcelona, Spain, according to a statement from her family office in Zurich and the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation.

Peretti’s sculptural cuff bracelets, bean designs and open-heart pendants are among her most recognizable work. She lent her classical aesthetic to functional goods, too, including bowls, magnifying glasses, razors and even a pizza cutter done in sterling silver, a metal she favored and helped popularize as a luxury choice.

“Elsa was not only a designer but a way of life,” Tiffany said in a statement Friday. “Elsa explored nature with the acumen of a scientist and the vision of a sculptor.”

Born in Florence, Italy, to wealthy, conservative parents and educated in Rome and Switzerland, Peretti moved to Barcelona in her 20s and began working as a model, where she tapped into a community of artists that included Salvador Dali, according to an August profile in The Wall Street Journal’s magazine. A short time later, she decamped for New York and started modeling for Halston and other top designers, jumping into the art and fashion jet set. It’s then she began to make jewelry, tapping the designers she worked for to incorporate her pieces.

It was Halston, a close friend, who introduced her to the highest echelons at Tiffany, an exclusive collaboration that lasted throughout her career.

The outspoken Peretti began designing for Tiffany in 1974. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of her signature wrist-hugging Bone Cuff, Tiffany launched fresh versions, including some with stones of turquoise and jade.

Describing herself as “retired” to the Wall Street Journal, she kept her hand in, communicating with artisans around the world.

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