Via Vogue: Jewelry Designer Elsa Peretti Has Died BY LAIRD BORRELLI-PERSSON March 19, 2021 Elsa Peretti, the Italian-born jewelry designer who revolutionized the industry with her biomorphic designs inspired by bone fragments and pebbles, has died, age 80. Peretti is arguably the most successful female ever to work in the jewelry field. Vogue described her work as “carved, pure—irresistibly touchable—it has been called jewelry as sculpture, sculpture as jewelry, and the most sensuous jewelry in the world.” Lois Chiles in a Halston dress with Marvella pearl earrings, and a pearl-and-onyx necklace by Elsa Peretti for Halston.Photographed by Francesco Scavullo, Vogue, March 1974 The designer began working with Tiffany & Co. in 1974 and over time her pieces came to account for about 10% of the company’s sales. In 2012, Tiffany paid the designer a one-time fee of more than $47 million dollars. A successful business woman, Peretti was also an exemplar of the stylish, liberated professional woman of the 1970s. Born in Florence, Peretti was estranged from her well-to-do and tradition-bound family for most of her adult life. In 1964 she went to Spain and began modeling; four years later she took her chances in New York, and quickly integrated into the social circles around Andy Warhol and Halston, whose playground was Studio 54. On Halloween of 1975 she posed in a Playboy Bunny outfit for Helmut Newton. Elsa Peretti, 1970s.Photo: Jack Robinson / Hulton Archive / Getty Images Halston, center, with Elsa Peretti, left, in 1971. Photo: Vernon Shibla / New York Post Archives /© NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images Elsa Peretti at the Met Gala, 1973.Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd. / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images Tall, with short-cropped hair and distinctive glasses, Peretti was both mercurial (she allegedly threw a fur coat into a fire when arguing with Halston) and minimal. “Take away, take away,” is how she described her process to Vogue in 1986. Peretti’s jewelry first made its way down the runway at a Giorgio di Sant’Angelo show, but she’s best known for her long standing collaboration with Halston, for whom she designed jewelry and perfume bottles. It was Halston who introduced Peretti to the Tiffany brass, a relationship that lasted for nearly 50 years. Tiffany & Co. Chairman Henry Platt with Elsa Peretti, circa 1978. Photo: PL Gould / Images / Getty Images When her first collection for Tiffany was released in 1974 Vogue wrote that “right then, what had been a cult-size ardor exploded into a national passion—suddenly everybody is collecting Peretti. From New York to California, wherever there’s a Tiffany’s, there are lines—and they’re not just-looking-thank-you.” Patti Hansen in Halston, with an Elsa Peretti pin.Photographed by Arthur Elgort, Vogue, August 1968 Model in a dress by Galanos and Elsa Peretti pearl necklace.Photographed by Chris von Wangenheim, Vogue, April 1975 Those customers were snapping up Peretti’s curvilinear pieces in sterling silver—not gold. This, the magazine would later note, turned the idea of what constituted fine jewelry on its head, and also affected who was buying it. In a break from tradition, women were shopping for themselves rather than being gifted jewelry by men. Elsa Peretti at work.Photographed by Duane Michals, Vogue, December 1974 Finding fame dizzying, Peretti retreated to Spain, to the village of Sant Martí Vell where she had bought a compound in 1968, and started to revive it, one building at a time. Peretti led an ascetic, unhurried, and happy existence in Catalonia (perhaps somewhat akin to that of Georgia O’Keeffe in Taos, New Mexico), that she found conducive to creation. “Of course, I’m slow,” she told Vogue. “I have to crystallize a form, find the essence. It’s a continual training to be essential in your work, and then you have to be essential in your life, too.” In light of the fact that Peretti was known for her largesse and for quietly supporting her friends, it seems fitting that one of her best known pieces is an open heart.