Elsa Peretti, the former fashion model whose jewelry designs became a staple at Tiffany & Co., died on March 18. She was 80.
Paretti was associated for more than 50 years with Tiffany, and her designs for the luxury brand became synonymous with the emergence of the modern working woman that no one represented better than herself. An official statement by the luxury brand reads:
Tiffany & Co. is deeply saddened by the passing of Elsa Peretti, famed jewellery designer for the House and member of the Tiffany family since 1974. A woman who was larger-than-life has touched everyone at Tiffany & Co. The relationships she created defined her. Elsa was not only a designer but a way of life.
Born in Florence, Italy, the younger daughter of an oil magnate, she worked as a ski instructor before pursuing a degree in interior design in Milan.
She then came to New York City to be a fashion model, with only limited success.
“It was hard for me to model here,” she told The New York Times. “The perfect American model was blond, looked 16, and was beautiful. I was too tall, too strange, too Spanish, they said.”
From there, she began designing for Halston, eventually fashioning the designer’s signature teardrop perfume bottle.
“I became a jewelry designer because I knew how to do something with a pencil and sketch my ideas,” she told Time. “My friends admired what I was doing. The kind of attitude then was, Why not?”