Art and nature: the story behind Tiffany & Co.’s most coveted pieces

Art and nature: the story behind Tiffany & Co.’s most coveted pieces

Design details

Text: Yeong Sassall

Image: Tiffany & Co.

In the words of Elsa Peretti, “Jewellery is not fashion. It has to last, not be discarded as soon as something else comes along”

That's exactly the ethos behind the Florence-born Tiffany & Co. designer, whose innovative approach to jewellery craftsmanship has earned her a rightful place in fashion history. As a child, Peretti's creativity and active imagination sparked a lifelong fascination with nature, which forms the basis of many of her most iconic and enduring designs.

A model in the '60s  and '70s, Peretti's striking looks may have had her mixing with the cultural influencers of her time, but it was her obsession with perfect craftsmanship that lent itself to a career in design. In June 1974, Peretti joined esteemed brand Tiffany & Co., and quickly gained a reputation for fresh ideas and inspired jewellery designs.

While many of her pieces are instantly recognisable, like the Tiffany & Co. open heart necklace, most admirers don't realise that they come with a fascinating backstory. The shape of the heart pendant actually mirrors the empty space inside a Henry Moore sculpture, while her bottle pendant, one of her first designs for the brand, was inspired by women in Portofino who carried gardenias. Peretti, keen to find a place to hold her flower, designed a water jug which can actually hold a gardenia.
Elsa Peretti Open Bottle Pendant
And Peretti's mesh collection? The idea for the woven gold and silver fabric grew during a trip to India's Jaipur while Peretti was admiring the colours of a sunset. Even her famous bone cuffs were born from a childhood encounter with a human bone in a church that Peretti took against her mother's wishes.

Elsa Peretti Bone Cuffs

Peretti's instinctive, yet intellectual approach to design is evident in all forms of her work - from her floating 'Diamonds by the Yard' pieces (crafted so that diamonds could be worn in the daytime) to the smooth and sensual lines of her bean series. Many of her original designs are still sell-out pieces today, worn and adored by women worldwide and a testament to power of one simple idea, executed to perfection.

Here are a few more of our favourite iconic pieces from Tiffany & Co.'s Elsa Peretti collection.