Elsa Peretti’s designs for American jewellers Tiffany & Co. are rightfully iconic. But none, in this writer’s opinion, more so than the Bone cuff, first introduced in the early ’70s. This year, Tiffany & Co. are celebrating 50 years of this design with a special edition release of coloured variants. The special editions will come in vibrant colourways of blue, red and green, all in copper with a “Special Edition” inscription on the inside.
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 – Peretti, of course – to the jewellery house.
In 1974, the two began a formal working relationship, and 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.