Celebrating the legacy of Elsa Peretti

Alison S. Cohn
·2-min read
Photo credit: Jack Mitchell/Getty
Photo credit: Jack Mitchell/Getty

From Harper's BAZAAR

Elsa Peretti, who passed away last week at age 80, was an iconic Italian jewellery designer and former model who created some of the most iconic and enduring pieces for Tiffany & Co. like the Bone Cuff and Open Heart over her more than a four-decade partnership with the American jewellery house.

Born in Florence, Peretti got her start in the fashion industry as a model in Barcelona. After signing with Wilhelmina in New York in 1968, she became one of designer Halston’s favoured models, nicknamed the Halstonettes, alongside Pat Cleveland and Anjelica Huston. The following year, she created her first jewellery design—a sterling silver bud vase strung on a leather cord and worn as a pendant necklace—for a Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo fashion show. Decades before model-designer collaborations became the norm, Peretti became a regular collaborator of Halston.

Photo credit: Naila Ruechel
Photo credit: Naila Ruechel

Peretti’s fluid, tactile designs, often in silver, looked nothing like the fine jewellery of the day. She won a Coty Award for jewellery design in 1971 and opened her own Bloomingdale’s shop-in-shop in 1972. In 1974, she began what would become her most enduring collaboration with Tiffany & Co., signing on as a byline designer of a jewellery collection that grew to include china, crystal, and silver designs for the home. Peretti’s biomorphic Open Heart, Bean, and Bottle pendants, Diamonds by the Yard chains featuring bezel-set stones, and, of course, her Bone Cuffs, are still some of the New York jeweller’s most popular offerings.

“I don’t have the feeling that I need to add a lot to my collection, because I have an incredibly wide range of things,” Peretti told BAZAAR.com last year on the occasion of a capsule collection celebrating her rich archive. “This is part of the secret of my things, that they are still valid.”

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