Elsa Peretti was born in Italy, educated in Europe, and spent several years in the 1960s working in Milan with an interior design firm while pursuing a career as a model with the then famous, New York City-based, Wilhelmina Models. She followed the agency’s advice to move to New York City and in a story that mimics, to a degree, Paloma Picasso’s, she began making innovative jewelry for fashion designer pals, including Oscar de la Renta, Halston, and Giorgio di Sant’Angelo. Her belts for Halston were an instant hit and were dependent upon, not hardware for their closures, but rather, a length of leather looped over itself, locking through an organic-shaped silver-toned buckle.
She ascended relatively quickly to jewelry fame and in 1971 won the Coty Award for her highly sculptural body of work. Her pieces appeared in Vogue magazine and in 1972 New York City’s trend-setting department store Bloomingdale’s opened a Peretti boutique. In 1974, she partnered with Tiffany & Co., which led to what was, at the time, a trailblazing collaboration.
Peretti’s designs are organic, flowing, and amoebic in look and feel. Her inspiration comes from countless sources, including nature, Japanese motifs, and modern talismans. Her work is usually asymmetric and has a soft and welcoming touch to the hand. Her “Doughnut” bangles in enamel, gold or silver are legendary, and her “Diamonds by the Yard” were simply groundbreaking when she introduced the concept to old-world Tiffany & Co. The “Open Heart” collection features sculptural, freeform hearts, whether in gold, silver, or encrusted with pave-set diamonds. The “Bones” cuff bracelets are easy to wear and sensual to the touch, and equally sinuous are her mesh bracelets which feel sleek and silky in the hand.
In 2012, Peretti and Tiffany extended their successful collaboration for another 20 years.