March 19, 2021—Elsa Peretti died last night at 80 years old. This post is being re-published in her memory. Full obituary here.
Elsa Peretti is one of the biggest names in the jewelry world today but she has kept a relatively low profile for the last several years. When her team recently launched an Instagram account, I was thrilled. The must follow feed reveals what I think of as Peretti-isms. Some are about jewelry. Lots are about life. The daily dose of Elsa reads like a biography which is great because the only book she has ever published is hard to get your hands. It is out-of-print and a work of art.
Fifteen of My Fifty With Tiffany was an exhibition catalogue issued in 1990 when the jewelry designer who was 50 at the time celebrated her 15th anniversary at Tiffany with a retrospective at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. The unique publication is composed of over 20 loose pages of thick paper decorated like a scrapbook. There is a one-page biography with corresponding family pictures and hand written captions. Another two pages have Elsa’s colorful quotes on different subjects including herself, “If you have been a kamikaze, like me you can’t go back to being a simple bourgeoisie.” On life she said, “I have the feeling of having to prove I exist, that this life has existed, through houses and objects. It may be compensation because I have no children.” On design she remarked, “Good line and good form are timeless.”
The vast majority of the pages feature Elsa’s iconic designs—Bones, Tears, Snakes—laid out with a media mix of her original drawings, editorial pages and artistic advertisements. On the reverse of the pages is a short explanation about the inspiration of each collection. The balance is as perfect as any Peretti design. Oddly enough, though you know there is a lot more of the designer’s story remaining to be told, the portfolio is a very satisfying review of her work. What it lacks in length it more than makes up for in charm. It’s an ideal expression for the greatest minimalist jewelry designer of all time.
While the book is hard to find this delightful 20-minute video of Elsa Peretti talking about her anniversary and walking through the 1990 exhibition Fifteen of My Fifty at Tiffany is an excellent substitute. Plus it captures the singular personality of Elsa Peretti to perfection.