If diamonds are still a girl’s best friend, Francesca Amfitheatrof – chic, sophisticated and focused – might be the fairy godmother. Since joining the Tiffany brand in the autumn of 2013, she’s been credited with bringing a modern, fresh approach to a company identified by its forget-me-not blue, aka Pantone 1837, and that iconic Fifth Avenue store where Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly character so elegantly considered breakfast.
Now some of the iconic collections – Victoria, Bows, Infinity and Atlas – are being updated with a clean, sophisticated wearability. But there are also some dazzling new collections, very much in line with the traditional company values. That sleek, geometric 1930s-influenced necklace and earrings draped on Reese Witherspoon at the Met Gala? They were part of the new Tiffany Masterpieces collection, an electrifying contribution to diamond jewellery. Masterpieces are very much on the mind of the Tiffany Creative Director as she reflects on how she approached her new role, bringing a unique view to the Manhattan skyline.
“One of the key reasons I imagine I was hired for this job is that my sense of style and my aesthetic is unfussy and undecorative. I love materials and a sense of proportion, and for things to really have a harmony in how they’re constructed, in their scale and feel, and just how they feel on the body. That is something that has always been in Tiffany’s DNA. It is all about simplicity. Simplicity is the chicest thing of all.”
The eighth Creative Director in the company since its 1837 foundation, Amfitheatrof is the first female to take the role. Her English accent hides a cosmopolitan background as her American journalist father was regularly posted round the world. Early years in Tokyo (where he was Time bureau chief) were followed by spates in Rome, Moscow and for many years London. Her Italian mother, a publicist for brands, including Armani and Valentino, would have pieces of jewellery commissioned using stones she had bought. Francesca Amfitheatrof’s visual world was clearly a very rich one.
“The first piece of jewellery that I remember was my grandmother’s. I remember lying on her lap, having my head stroked. And she wore this long gold chain with a huge piece of amber, a pendant like a delicious drop of honey that was about to fall into my mouth. It had an insect inside it. As a child, it was weird: the idea that this stone holds an animal inside and it looks like honey and it looks delicious. That had a big impact on me.”
Boarding school in England was followed by London’s Central St Martin’s and the Royal College of Art, where she received her masters in silversmithing, and an apprenticeship with a master craftsman near Padua. Her first show was at Jay Jopling’s White Cube gallery. Shortly after graduating, Italian brand Alessi invited her to design a collection, and she was soon taking further commissions from Chanel, Fendi, Garrard, Marni, Wedgwood, and others to create jewellery, accessories and housewares, depending on the client. A line of jewellery took up the spare moments as well as establishing RS&A, an agency representing artists such as Oliver Clegg and the Chapman brothers.