Elsa Peretti, Star Designer of Elegant Jewelry, Dies at 80

Elsa Peretti, Star Designer of Elegant Jewelry, Dies at 80

Elsa Peretti, Star Designer of Elegant Jewelry, Dies at 80

Elsa Peretti, Star Designer of Elegant Jewelry, Dies at 80

Perhaps the most famous photo of Ms. Peretti was not one from a modeling assignment but the 1975 morning-after shot by the celebrity photographer Helmut Newton, with whom she was romantically involved at the time. She stands on an apartment terrace, a cigarette dangling from her mouth, wearing a variation of the Playboy Bunny uniform — strapless, with long black gloves and a black mask.

If her night life affected her business productivity, it didn’t show. She branched out in terms of merchandise. There was a gold mesh bra, a line of ballpoint pens, silverware, ashtrays, even a sterling silver pizza cutter. But the jewelry was always her primary focus.

In a statement released on Friday, Tiffany’s credited her with “some of the most innovative jewelry and object designs in the world” and noted that she had “explored nature with the acumen of a scientist and the vision of a sculptor.” As Ms. Peretti herself once put it, “I love nature, but I try to change it a little bit, not copy it.”

In 2012, there was talk of Ms. Peretti’s leaving Tiffany (and taking her designs with her). But just as the year was ending, the designer and the retailer signed a new 20-year agreement, which included a one-time payment of more than $47 million. The numbers varied from year to year, but Peretti merchandise sometimes represented 10 percent or more of Tiffany’s sales.

Ms. Peretti’s designs are in several permanent collections, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum in London and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In addition to winning the Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award in 1971, she received prizes from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1981 and the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1996.

She bought a house in Sant Martí Vell, a little more than an hour’s drive north of Barcelona, in 1968. The place was a wreck, largely abandoned, and she loved it. After restoring it, she went on to restore other parts of the village, including the church; help excavate the Roman ruins; and establish a winery. In the 1970s, she talked about turning it into a community for artisans, but it became her own private village.


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