Elsa Peretti’s designs for American jeweller Tiffany & Co. are rightfully iconic. But none, in this writer’s opinion, more so than the Bone cuff, first introduced in the early 70’s. This year, Tiffany & Co. is celebrating its 50th anniversary, the house’s Elsa Peretti Bone Cuffs – originally available in yellow gold, rose gold, and sterling silver – are now available in a special edition collection reimagined in vibrant red, blue and green finishes over copper, a nod towards the now 80-year-old designer’s love of colour.
The day Elsa Peretti became a part of Tiffany & Co was the day we entered a new era in our history of design innovation. describes
Michael J. Kowalski, former chairman and CEO of Tiffany & Co.
If you are not familiar with the Elsa and Tiffany story, here’s how it goes: in the ’70s, America’s leading fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick introduced his long-time friend and frequent collaborator Elsa Peretti to the jewellery house. She already had a number of accolades to her name, including the 1971 Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award for Jewellery. In 1974, the two began a formal working relationship, her debut collection sold out on the day it was launched, elevating sterling silver to luxury status overnight. The pieces Peretti designed for them, like the Bone, Bean, Mesh, Diamonds by the Yard, among many others, have since gone on to become iconic and legendary – not light words to be sure, but totally apt.
Elsa Peretti modelling in a Halston fashion show in the 1970s, wearing her own jewellery designs.
The Bone cuff is perhaps chief among them. When it was first released, it completely bucked the convention of jewellery design. Instead of architectural lines and flashy gemstones, Peretti looked towards biomorphism and a sleek sensuality inspired by organic forms. Peretti credits the inspiration to a recurring childhood story of symptomatic curiosity. As a young girl, she would repeatedly pocket a human bone from the 17th-century Capuchin Crypt in Rome, only to be told off by her mother and told to return it.
Some designs are instant classics that will never age; others are provocative and positively ahead of their time. Elsa Peretti’s ergonomic Bone cuff, designed for Tiffany & Co. in the 1970s, manages to straddle both categories.
That’s perhaps indicative of Peretti’s penchant for being inspired by the curious, the unexamined and the unexpected. One of the earliest wearers of the Bone cuff was Liza Minelli, who was urged by Halston to try the style in place of flashy jewellery. Minelli describes her attraction to the cuff as immediate, being drawn almost innately to the feminine sensuality of the design.
The Bone cuff is also one of the finest examples of Elsa Peretti’s design philosophy. A believer in the purity of line, purpose and essential elegance, the cuff strips away the glitz and glamour for understated sculptural beauty. What might seem offhandedly simple is actually a carefully researched and designed piece of work – to wit, the cuffs are shaped and designed differently and specifically for the left and right wrists. They sit comfortably on the arm, almost an extension of the wearer’s own form – a hidden ergonomic element to the artfulness of the design.
Peretti also noted the influence that Casa Milà, Antoni Gaudí’s striking 1912 building in Barcelona with an undulating façade and surrealist sculptural roof, had on the design. Compare the two, and the curves seem synonymous.
There’s also, of course, all the attractive associations with Elsa Peretti that come with the Bone cuff. In times when creativity seems challenging, it’s comforting to recall an alleged Peretti quote: “If the work is not coming clearly and somewhat quickly, you must stop. You must rest so that you can fulfill the vision correctly”. Couple that with the artistry of her life’s work (her designs for Tiffany & Co. are in the permanent collections of numerous art museums), and you’ve got a totemic objet d’art with a dazzling history around it.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tiffany & Co. Bone cuff designed by Peretti, the jewel has been given a modern update through colour. In a nod to Peretti’s love of bright colours, these new editions of the copper Bone cuffs have been been lavished with electric reds, blues and greens. Each of these special edition cuffs features a celebratory inscription on the inside of the design. Worn on both wrists, of course.
Jewellery should be personal, dear and cherished, and these are the kinds of energies I want close to me. Worn on both wrists, of course.
The 50th anniversary celebrations will continue throughout the year, with new additions to the Bone cuff collection being launched in the coming months. In September, Tiffany & Co will launch an 18ct yellow gold Bone cuff with green jade accents. Silver editions with black jade or turquoise details will follow in October.
Elso Peretti’s iconic Bone Cuffs are available at Tiffany & Co’s boutiques worldwide, and online. Come into the beautiful world of Tiffany & Co.