Elsa Peretti died at home last week at the age of 80.Born in Florence, the daughter of a well-to-do Roman family, she had been living for the last few years in Sant Marti Vell, a village outside of Barcelona.
Ms. Peretti began her career as a model for Halston in the ‘60s and ‘70s until 1974 when the clothing designer introduced her to Walter Hoving, the Chairman of Tiffany’s.
“The timing was perfect,” said Hoving. “We were looking for someone who could make jewelry that women could wear with jeans and sweaters as well as with ball gowns.”
Elsa Peretti became one of world’s most famous jewelry designers creating timeless collections for the company. She was honored with a Coty Award in 1974 and an exhibition at London’s British Museum in 1979.
Although her work included tableware and accessories, Peretti was best known for her contour bracelets, snake-head chains, belt buckles and Diamonds by the Yard. Among her most popular items were pendants — the Open Heart and The Bean. Another pendant, a leather cord, held a tiny vase that could hold both water and a single flower.
“The sensation of how a piece feels, when held, is as important to me as the fluidity of how it looks” were the words that guided her career.
Peretti at Tiffany & Co.
Elsa Peretti at home in New York City
This Photo Journal is dedicated to my daughter Lily Vonnegut who has dubbed wearing Elsa Peretti’s Bean and Open Heart “a rite of passage” for young women.