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Elsa Peretti, One of the Most Iconic Jewellery Designers of the Past 50 Years, Has Died

By Renée Batchelor

The late designer Elsa Peretti passed away aged 80 in Santa Marti Vell, Spain
 
Courtesy of Tiffany & Co.
The late designer Elsa Peretti passed away aged 80 in Santa Marti Vell, Spain

The iconic jewellery designer, Elsa Peretti has passed away on the 18 March 2021 at the age of 80. Peretti rose to prominence, after being appointed the head designer of Tiffany & Co. in the 1970s. Her enduring jewellery designs — bold, sculptural and sinuous all at once — captured the imagination of the modern woman and sealed her place as one of the most iconic and influential jewellery designers of this century.

Born in Florence, Italy, Peretti had an international upbringing that included time spent studying in Rome and Switzerland. In 1964, Peretti began a career as a fashion model in Barcelona, Spain, before moving to New York in 1968 to pursue this career. She began designing jewellery in 1969, designing first for her friend Halston, before creating some of Tiffany & Co’s most iconic pieces as an independent designer.

Courtesy of Tiffany & Co.Gal Gadot wears the Tiffany & Co. bone cuff designed by Peretti more than 50 years ago in the film "Wonder Woman 1984."
Gal Gadot wears the Tiffany & Co. bone cuff designed by Peretti more than 50 years ago in the film "Wonder Woman 1984."

When Peretti launched her bone cuff with Tiffany & Co. more than 50 years ago, it gave the world a stunning glimpse of the ergonomic sensuality she was capable of, one that was to inform all of her subsequent jewellery designs. The tactile and sculptural form of the cuff was inspired by the designer’s visits as a young child to the crypt of a 17th-century Capuchin church in Rome. Peretti would sometimes secretly take home the bones she found in secret. That, and the inspiration she gleaned from Spanish architect Antonio Gaudí’s Casa Milà, a residential modernist building in Barcelona, lent the bone cuff a slightly macabre, but nonetheless beautiful air.

With its seamless contours, the bone cuff effortlessly adorns the wrist of the wearer. The fact that it was designed specifically for either the right or left wrist shows the attention to detail that made Peretti’s design both of its time, and an instant classic. “I have always been interested in the mechanics and its feel — every jewellery piece should be captivating and comfortable to wear,” said Peretti.

By 1979 she was Tiffany’s leading designer and designed over thirty collections for Tiffany over the years including the best-selling Bean, Open Heart and Mesh pieces, which have been translated into everything from pendants to earrings. In December 2012, Tiffany & Co. extended its partnership with Peretti for another 20 years to continue producing her iconic designs in a deal reportedly worth, US $47.2 million dollars.

Peretti’s timeless designs and the inspiration that she has given other young designers will be her legacy. The Korean designer Yoon Ahn who heads the label Ambush and also is the jewellery designer for Dior Men said in her Instagram. "She taught me all ideas come out of life by simply living and enjoying the beauty in the world. That's why you should think about beauty and what you want to transmit. Once you think about designing you can't design."