I first met Francesca Amfitheatrof at her home in London. She was living in a lovely property in Hoxton, with her husband and two children. White walls framed the space and everywhere I looked there was something intriguing. I was there to meet her sister, Stefania, who was joining me for dinner.

I first met Francesca Amfitheatrof at her home in London. She was living in a lovely property in Hoxton, with her husband and two children. White walls framed the space and everywhere I looked there was something intriguing. I was there to meet her sister, Stefania, who was joining me for dinner.

When Francesca entered the room I thought her clever husband must have bought a pre-Raphaelite painting, something like La Ghirlandata by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and found a way of bringing its diaphanous subject to life.

Amfitheatrof has that impact on people she meets. She’s a presence, a woman who looks like she inspires artists and foolish gestures. But what she did not remind me of, back in 2012, was a woman who might want to become the driving force of a major jewellery brand. Her aesthetic was all about paying attention, crafting complexity from simple details.

“I BELIEVE THERE IS GREAT POWER IN SIMPLICITY.” —Francesca Amfitheatrof, Tiffany & Co. design director

When I saw an announcement in September 2013 that she had been made the first female creative director of Tiffany & Co., such was my surprise that I had to check to see that it was the same person.

This is not to say I thought she lacked the talent for the job. On the contrary, she has such an abundant range of skills, I suspect she could design something interesting for any luxury brand. My surprise was that Tiffany had the courage to hire her for such an important and high profile role. As it turns out the choice is inspired, and brings fresh life and a new direction to a brand that needed a shot in the heart.

My next encounter with Amfitheatrof took place in Hong Kong at the new Liang Yi Museum on Hollywood Road. She was wearing tailored black trousers, high-heeled boots, plus a collection of layers in the form of a jacket, shirt and a shower of gold and silver chains, the last being pieces from her T for Tiffany collection. If the word elegant had not already been in use, I would have invented it, just for her.

Amfitheatrof’s voice is deep and rich with the bright sunshine and soft shadows of years spent flying between Moscow, Tokyo and Rome, the legacy of a childhood with an American journalist father and an Italian publicist mother. “have you seen the collection?” she asked,“I want to hear what you think about the colours.”

How to resist such an invitation? I couldn’t. We dutifully took our place in front of a long counter on which pieces from the new T-Collection shone like iridescent snowflakes on a Christmas morning. The range and emotion in Amfitheatrof’s work for her new employer is impressive. That’s not really surprising, for she has been gathering ideas and inspirations from thousands of sources for a score of years, hoarding them in her razor sharp mind. It was almost as if some part of her was waiting for the day when she could stand before the maison that Louis Comfort Tiffany transformed into a work of art and declare that she was ready to wear his mantle. A garment, by the way, that includes her predecessor’s 19th century status as the leading exponent of American Art Nouveau.

LCT would probably have been impressed by the resume that Amfitheatrof brings to the “fancy goods” company his father co-founded in 1837. A graduate of London’s Central St. Martins and the Royal College of Art, she emerged from school with a masters in silversmithing and subsequently spent time with a master craftsman near Padua, the Italian cradle of all things romantic. She returned to London and became close friends with Jay Jopling, founder of the White Cube gallery, who helped her weave a network among Young British Artists like Damien Hirst, Jake and Dinos Chapman and Tracy Ermin.

Amfitheatrof’s first solo show, featuring jewellery and silver work, was at White Cube. She was soon in demand for curating art exhibitions, she had commissions from Chanel, Fendi, Garrard, Marni and Wedgewood. By the time I came to take her sister to dinner, Amfitheatrof had wrapped herself in a rich patchwork of contrasting tasks that included design, curating, interior decoration and collecting.


“My life in London was pretty settled,” she says. “I had just redone my home, and I was about to hang my art collection.”

Then came the call, the Empire State of Mind, and now her bejewelled stash box is in Fort Green, and she can be found on Fifth Avenue whipping up elegant confections like a Simmons with them pastries – before long she may be on billboards, sipping mai-tais, with the Knicks and Nets giving her high fives, although one suspects she is more grounded than the Jay-Z style celebrities who will now want her profile on their WeChat.

“Obviously it’s a dream job,” she told Elle.com.

“Life is made up of cycles. If things happen at the right moment in your life, it’s impossible to say no.”

Amfitheatrof is only the eighth person to be the creative director at Tiffany and in her role she will oversee all aspects of the brand’s design.  She brings an effortlessness to design that is the perfect match for the brand’s history, and the delicacy that characterises the dazzling array of work that leaves its fertile workshops.

“With Tiffany, because of its American design heritage, everything has a freshness and a lightness,” she says. “That’s something I really believe in. Tiffany reaches so many different women and men worldwide. I wanted Tiffany T to feel like it spoke to the global village – fresh and new, yet it is still close to the heritage. Tiffany has always been very modern and ground breaking.”

The T collection features a series of bracelets, rings, bangles and necklaces that have a bold Tiffany T as their dominant motif.  It has been described at “unapologetically modern” and “a perfect capture of New York’s power, energy and daring.” It’s all of these things, and like New York itself, the collection has hints of old and new and it required an immigrant to capture its true spirit.

“I wanted to create a symbol for modern life and its relentless energy that flows through New York and drives art and culture around the world,” she says. “This is just the beginning of what I hope to accomplish.”

Since she arrived in New York, Amfitheatrof has embraced the city’s energy, looking at its transformative spirit as a vehicle for her own creativity.

If this is a city where the streets make you feel brand new, where the lights can inspire you, then surely it’s a place where design can reach new heights of creativity and technical innovation.

“I know the process of making jewellery and I’m very interested in engineering and materials and I like to mix those up,” she says. “Simplicity is often the ultimate goal. Tiffany is as minimal and as rich as the life we live today. In my design process I tend to have a concept and then dream, the energy that’s inside Tiffany is completely derived from New York.”

Tiffany and New York seem to make a perfect match for somebody who has followed an unconventional career path, with a wide array of work driven by the passions of the moment.

“Tiffany makes its own rules, it has done so in the past, and it can do so now,” she says. “New York City does not conform, the Tiffany woman has a spring in her step, she makes her own rules, she also doesn’t conform. Courage, creativity and optimism are all part of the legacy of Tiffany.”

These aspects of the new Tiffany dialect, where opposites cross germinate and the synthesis becomes an elegant piece of jewellery is something that begins with Amfitheatrof’s cool hands sketching an evocative shape that has a direct line to the warmth that she so evidently carries in her heart.

“I like to start with a hand drawing, I like to feel that there is a human element, that there is a touch to what is designed,” she says.

“The T collection is very clean and pure and so its very approachable, this is jewellery that you would want to touch and feel and play with.”

There was once a Breakfast at Tiffany’s, one that may have haunted the jewellery house on Madison Avenue, for it threated to confine and constrict its design direction within Audrey Hepburn’s magnetic shadow. But culture flows like water, and the brave are those who dive deep into the stream and beat it to the next bend in the river. With Francesca Amfitheatrof at Tiffany’s creative helm, the past is no longer any kind of straightjacket but rather has become a signpost, pointing from a glorious heritage to an ever more vibrant future.

Now that’s a prospect worth a pair of New York-style high-fives, especially with a T Tiffany bracelet dangling from each wrist.