ou can tell a lot about Francesca Amfitheatrof by the jewellery she wears. Not surprisingly, the head designer at Tiffany & Co is adorned with pieces from her first collection, Tiffany T. The sleek gold bracelets, rings and necklaces aim to encapsulate the modern woman that she is, a working mother who travels, loves fashion and design and seems to have effortless style. But there are also a few unexpected pieces — her grandmother’s wedding ring, which she wears every day, and a multicoloured string bracelet she has not taken off her left wrist since a beach holiday many years ago. The sum of these parts reveals what she treasures most.
“To me, what I love about jewellery is the power that is has. For something so small, it has so much meaning. It’s like a little memory bank, a time capsule,” Amfitheatrof explains while sitting among her Tiffany T collection at an art gallery in Paddington during a recent visit to Sydney. “I wear bits of string. I love them and have had them on for years now — they are from the beach. It’s just something that reminds you, it has meaning and it’s completely personal and symbolic. You get married and the only thing you have from that day is your wedding band, the way your skin moulds around it and it becomes part of you. I think jewellery is phenomenally important.”
Amfitheatrof is the first female design director in Tiffany & Co’s 177-year history and her appointment to the American institution has been described in the press as “instantly upping its cool factor”. The mother of two has been in her new job for just 14 months, but is confident she can evolve the brand in the 21st century after the 35-year tenure of her predecessor, John Loring.
“Life is so much about timing and the timing [of my arrival] has been fantastic,” she says. “Things within Tiffany are really changing. They are changing very much from the top down. There is a real moment of synergy between a new president [Frederic Cumenal] and my arrival — it’s kind of a breath of fresh air that is like a renaissance within Tiffany.”
Amfitheatrof made her first piece of jewellery — a silver hairpiece — when just 15. Her “phenomenal” art teacher brought in a jeweller to do a one-day course at her school and from that moment she was hooked. A bachelor of arts and masters at the Royal College of Art in London followed and she has since designed collections for Chanel, Fendi and Alice Temperley as well as curating art collections and creating furniture and lighting displays.
The designer is not at all intimidated by the financial implications of her responsibility to create lines of jewellery for a brand with such a rich history, saying she sees it as a “great design challenge”.