Elsa Peretti, the jewelry designer behind some of Tiffany & Co.’s most successful designs, has reportedly passed away at the age of 80. She is said to have died peacefully in her sleep on Thursday night.
Just last October, Tiffany & Co. had tapped Peretti to design nine one-of-a-kind pieces, based on archival designs from her personal library, in celebration of 50 years since the introduction of her widely recognized bone-cuff bracelet—and 45 years since she began designing for the company. That was no small feat considering the Italian designer had been living a reclusive life in the tiny village of Sant Martí Vell in Catalonia, Spain, where she has lived permanently since the ’80s in a home she purchased in 1968. Those who got their hands on the pieces, which included an 18-karat gold mesh bib necklace set with 66 brilliant-cut diamonds and a South Sea Keshi pearl pendant strung on a silk cord, now have the last Tiffany & Co. designs she ever made, no doubt raising their value. Each piece was developed in collaboration with craftsmen in her Catalonian village.
Some of her most enduring designs for the company are still sold annually as collection mainstays, such as her trademarked bean and open heart pieces. In total, she completed over 30 collections. But while her name and aesthetic will always be associated with Tiffany, in her 70s-era heyday she also designed jewelry for ready-to-wear designers like Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo and Halston (for whom she modeled for before becoming a jewelry designer) that was worn by icons like Liza Minnelli. Some of her pieces are enshrined at institutions like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas. Her famous scorpion necklace can be found at the British Museum of Art.
Some of her lesser-known accomplishments include her Eccovici wine company and vineyard, established near her Catalonian village in the Gironès region, as well as her philanthropic efforts through the Nando and Elsa Perretti Foundation, named for her and her father. The non-profit was initially created for environmental and wildlife conservation but has since expanded to support everything from human- and civil-rights causes to education, women’s rights and medical research.
“Tiffany & Co. is deeply saddened by the passing of Elsa Peretti, famed jewelry designer for the House and member of the Tiffany family since 1974,” said the company in part of a statement today. “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.”