Story by Jaime Lin Weinstein | Photography courtesy of Tiffany & Co.
This article appears in the Fall 2014 issue of Eidé Magazine. Read it here, or click to read it in the issue below.
Given that diamonds are said to be a girl’s best friend, it’s hard to believe that one of the world’s grandest purveyors of the precious gem has a history dominated by men. But with the recent appointment of Francesca Amfitheatrof as its first female design director, Tiffany & Co. has finally welcomed a woman to its reins. Amfitheatrof assumed her new role with the luxury brand in September last year, and she’s already proving herself alongside the 177-year male-dominated legacy with the introduction of her first collection — one that honors the company’s past, but undoubtedly looks to the future.
Appropriately titled “Tiffany T,” the collection “felt like a natural jumping off point for my work here,” Amfitheatrof says of using the letter that pays homage to the Tiffany name. “I took ‘T,’ which is a strong and graphic form,” she explains, “and I simplified, deconstructed, extended and bent it into jewelry that has an extraordinarily beautiful clarity.” The result is streamlined, modern pieces like T-shaped stacking rings and minimal bangles; thick, sculptural cuffs; and chain-link bracelets and necklaces in varying lengths, all offered in 18 karat gold — rose, yellow and white — in addition to sterling silver; some accented with diamonds or ceramic.
And while they may appear simple, Amfitheatrof clarifies that this characteristic is meant to merit a positive connotation. “I believe there is great power in simplicity. And by simplicity I don’t mean just that something is plain and uncomplicated. I mean there is great power in taking a design and distilling and refining it until it is just exactly what it needs to be. Nothing more, nothing less.”
The same could perhaps be said of Amfitheatrof herself. Clean and elegant in styling; poised and refined in presence; she looks like one of those impeccably chic, yet understated French women — though actually “a global citizen,” in her own words: born in Japan, and most recently relocated to New York from London. Her CV boasts an equally rich history. A trained jeweler and silversmith with a master’s degree from the Royal College of Art, Amfitheatrof has previously designed jewelry collections for the likes of Chanel, Fendi, Marni and Alice Temperley. She’s also designed furniture and lighting, worked as a creative consultant and art curator, and even developed fragrances for private clients and Claridge’s, the five-star London hotel.
It’s a pedigree she applies to reimagining the icons of a century-plus old establishment like Tiffany. But for all her modern brio, she hasn’t taken things too far from the brand’s origins — at least where her innovation and process are concerned. “Always, always, I start with a dream, something I see in my head that won’t fade until I get it down on paper ... I like to start with a sketch, to give the design process a human element, a real touch,” Amfitheatrof says. There are even a number of diamond pieces in the collection that were inspired by sketches from the 1920s she found in the Tiffany archives. “I love those initial drawings, when anything is possible and your mind is wide open.”
It’s a spirit that’s as much a part of the Tiffany history as its collections of jewels: “Tiffany has always been a company of great innovators, great dreamers who are constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with design.” It’s luxury at its finest incarnation — whatever the era.