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ten minutes to read about timeless design

Elsa Peretti is the matriarch of Tiffany & Co. She has made us lust for her humble designs, including the bean and the bone cuff, like, forever. She has been photographed by the finest and done so much to elevate jewellery design to its purest organic form. In the late 1960s, Halston and Carrie Donovan introduced Peretti to Walter Hoving, CEO of Tiffany & Co., and then she met Henry Platt, its president. It was Platt who said, “We have to have her.” Her first pieces as a jewellery designer were a heart-shaped belt buckle and bottle pendant. Over the 50 years since, she has designed 55 collections, including objects. We hang on her every word, and so in celebration of her decades at the heart and soul of this New York legend, we lean in and listen. 
by Alison Veness

Nature and inspiration

“I love nature, but I try to change it a little, not copy it.”

“Ideas come to me when I'm sitting outside and relaxed. Most of my designs are nature-inspired, for example beans and stars and teardrops, as well as scorpions and snakes.”

‚ÄúThings in nature are so simple. To me the ocean bed holds the most fascinating things. Organic shapes that I love, and nature is always important to my work.‚Äù 

“My love for bones has nothing macabre about it. As a child, I kept on visiting the cemetery of a 17th-century Capuchin church with my nanny. All the rooms were decorated with human bones. My mother had to send me back, time and again, with a stolen bone in my little purse. Things that are forbidden remain with you forever. Later on, I was free to collect bones, so at my leisure I designed a world of beautiful shapes that have remained with me ever since.''

‚ÄúMy time spent in Barcelona was a strong source of inspiration ‚Äì Antonio Gaud√≠'s Casa Mila in particular.‚Äù 

“My roots are in Europe. I find it ideal for translating my experiences into my work. But I can hold a cup of sake on a full moon in Japan and the reflection of the moon in that little cup can make me feel so enthusiastic about beauty. That one, good, magical moment can give me enough to create other things.”

“I am a Taurus. I need to feel the earth under my feet.”


“I have always been interested in the mechanics and its feel – every jewellery piece should be captivating and comfortable to wear.”

‚ÄúI like to push myself to achieve a certain quality, eliminate the excess detail. I always want a high degree of purity.‚Äù 

“The very form of my objects is dictated by common sense, which subtly insinuates how to grasp the object. The Japanese aesthetic is very important to me. Very organic. They have a sense of weight and balance.”

‚ÄúAt the beginning it is difficult to understand what you want to design. You have to digest what you see and touch. I keep working, thinking, until I can crystallise the shape.‚Äù 

“The challenge is each material I deal with, as well as having to cope with differing dimensions. It's relaxing to work on a scale that contrasts with the jewellery.”

“I managed to persuade the best craftsmen to manufacture some of my forms. Behind them lie centuries of culture and a long process of loving production.”

“Thanks to everyone who continues to work with the spirit of a craftsman, without whom we will never realise our fantasies.”


“Style is to be simple.”

“I hate that impeccable, perfectly perfect look, all matched and prearranged. Style is to be simple.”

“I like to do things that are classic.”

“For me, nothing is new. Good line and good form are timeless.”

“I don't believe in anything that isn't real. I design for a woman with taste, who likes quality and simplicity.”

“I like objects to wear that you can put on a table as an art object. I like jewellery you want to keep, like things your grandmother saved.”

“My passion was for silver. I loved the old silver jewellery. I found it in Portobello market, and I was brunette, so silver suited me. You have to follow your instinct.”


“I was a baby when I began, but I knew exactly what I wanted to wear myself. I became a jewellery designer because I knew how to do something with a pencil and sketch my ideas.”

“As soon as I put a design on paper, something happens. The sound of the pencil is like an exciting echo of our subconscious.”

“I always write in pencil, so I can erase.”

“My design process is based on common sense. I take my time in order to crystallise a form and find its essence.”

‚ÄúGreat design doesn't require an effort to look at. You shouldn't be pushed to look at an object by a signature, but because it is a pleasure.‚Äù 

“What most delights me are the smooth contours the objects gradually acquire as they are worn through everyday use.”

“Touch is important. I get lots of my inspiration from tactile things.”


“I am not an artist, but an artisan.”

“All my work comes out of my life. I'm gifted and see lines and shapes where no one else does.”

“To translate ideas is magic. It takes so long to make a curve, to make sure the curve is done well.”

“I am jewellery and objects together. This is the Elsa Peretti name to me. It is a very good balance for me to try to create with the person in mind or with the space in mind, to imagine a bowl of fruit or something for water. It is a little bit yin and yang.”

‚ÄúI don't have the feeling that I need to add a lot to my collection, because I have an incredibly wide range of things. This is part of the secret of my things, that they are still valid.‚Äù 

“I didn't go to merchandising school, but I listen to people who are more clever than me. Curiosity and humility are good business. To be generous and open is good business.”

“It is a great satisfaction to work as a whole, to have an understanding and share the same enthusiasm. This magic happened with everybody I have worked with. It is like singing together in unison.”

Taken from Issue 16 of 10 Magazine Australia - out now.