She was born in 1940 in Florence, Italy, the daughter of a well-to-do Roman family. She was educated at Volbicela School in Rome, with a diploma in interior design. She moved to New York in the 1960s, where she began designing jewelry for a handful of top designers, including Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Giorgio di Sant’Angelo and Tiffany.
She designed the containers for Halston’s fragrance and cosmetic lines, and many of Tiffany’s best-selling items including the famous ‘teardrop’ necklaces and ‘thumb’ vases in white. Both are examples of her simple organic aesthetic. She is noted for creating understated and timeless pieces that have become favorites of stars.
Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co., 1984
In 1964, Peretti decided to embark on a new career path as a fashion model. After having spent her first couple of years in Barcelona, Spain, she followed Wilhelmina Modeling Agency’s suggestion to move to New York City in 1968. ‘Elsa Peretti in Bunny Costume’ is a lasting image of the 1970s by Helmut Newton.
While modelling in Manhattan, Peretti began creating new jewelry styles for a handful of fashion designers including Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo and Halston. She was initially inspired by a silver flower vase she had found at a flea market.
Peretti became involved in the drug scene around Studio 54, but was sober by 1971.
By the time Peretti joined Tiffany & Co. as an independent designer; she had already received the 1971 Coty Award and had her first appearance in Vogue magazine. In 1972 Bloomingdale’s, one of New York’s landmark shopping stores, opened a dedicated Peretti boutique.
In 1974, Peretti joined Tiffany & Co. In 2012, Tiffany and Peretti extended their partnership for 20 years.
In 2013, Peretti was the first non-Catalan person to be awarded the National Culture Award by the National Council for Culture and the Arts (CoNCA). She has had links with Catalonia since the 1960s and has had established relations with artists of her generation. She has provided a great deal of support to cultural, scientific, humanitarian and educational initiatives and for human rights through the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation and through the Spanish Elsa Peretti Foundation, always combining past and present, tradition and innovation. Through the Elsa Peretti Foundation she has promoted the visual arts and fostered the consolidation, protection and dissemination of the historical, artistic, cultural, and architectural craft heritage of Catalonia. In the last year she has worked on projects such as the renovation of the interior of the church of Sant Martí Vell, where she often invited guitarist Michael Laucke and painter-sculptor Robert Llimós. She also worked on the management of the sixteenth-century historical documents of the town, the conservation of the photographic archive of Oriol Maspons and the conservation of the Roman city of Empúries
In 2000, Elsa Peretti was inspired by her late father Nando to create a charitable foundation called the Nando Peretti Foundation (NPF). The NPF focuses on projects aiming at the promotion of human and civil rights, with a special emphasis on the right to education, children’s rights, and women’s rights and dignity. Over time, The NPF has also supported the requests of unrepresented people, and oppressed minorities for the defense of their right to exist and the preservation of their culture. The NPF awards grants to promote physical and mental health, and to support medical and scientific research projects. It also supports more specific types of intervention, such as the building of entire hospitals or sanitary facilities, and the purchase of technological and medical equipment in advanced, as well as poor countries. It has funded several public awareness campaigns and projects for the conservation of endemic species for wildlife conservation and the protection of the environment. The NPF also became increasingly engaged in the promotion of culture and the arts. In 2015, the NPF changed its name to the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation (NaEPF).