Elsa Peretti, undisputed queen of modern jewellery, designer, former model, and philanthropist has died aged 80. She was one of the most influential jewellery designers of the 20th century.
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.
Elsa 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.
Peretti was born in 1940 to a wealthy, conservative family in Italy and ever the rebel, left aged 21 to pursue a life of independence.
She began modelling in Barcelona before moving to New York in 1968 to further her career. It was in Manhattan that she found her natural home.
She quickly became part of its buzzy social scene at a time of great societal change when women were fighting to take control of their lives, their careers and their bodies.
She started designing jewellery in 1969, first for fashion designer Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo and then for her great friend and fellow designer, Halston, for whom she also modelled alongside Pat Cleveland and Anjelica Houston.
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 favoured and helped popularize as a luxury choice.
She was also a philanthropist, establishing her foundation in her father’s honour in 2000. It supports a range of projects, from human and civil rights to medical research and wildlife conservation.