Frank Gehry Applies Touch to Tiffany

Frank Gehry, the Pritzker-prize-winning architect, has entered into an agreement to create jewelry and tabletop items for Tiffany & Co.

NEW YORK — It seems Frank Gehry is scaling down.

The Pritzker Prize-winning architect behind the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles has entered into a long-term partnership with Tiffany & Co. to create an exclusive jewelry collection and tabletop items. The partnership marks the first time Tiffany has signed on a superstar creative talent since its agreement with Paloma Picasso 25 years ago.

“I’m a hick from the sticks,” the Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based Gehry told WWD Wednesday. “I don’t know much about buying jewelry or having jewelry. But I’ve watched fashion over the years because there is relevance in it for me. It is a way of taking the temperature of the world. And I’ve been surprised at how much fun I’ve been having with this project. I submit sketches to the design team at Tiffany, and they turn around and make something that looks so drop-dead gorgeous.”

Tiffany first came in contact with Gehry during the release of its Mark watch in 1999. To introduce the men’s timepiece, the company celebrated a group of people who had made an impact in their respective fields. Gehry was among the honorees. The meeting sparked Gehry’s interest in creating a few pieces of jewelry that would be inspired by his work to raise funds for the completion of the Disney Hall.

“If you look at the floor plan of Bilbao and some of my buildings, they’re not normal floor plans,” he said. “There’s a nice quality to them, and if you fill them with diamonds, you could make a brooch or other similar pieces.”

The timing didn’t work out on that project, but Gehry said Tiffany came back and suggested exploring a broader relationship.

“If we were to ever consider a new jewelry designer at Tiffany, we would want someone with impeccable design credentials, and he has those credentials,” said Michael Kowalski, Tiffany’s chairman and chief executive officer. “We became fascinated by his extraordinary architectural forms and his drawings, and it occurred to us that it would be interesting to express those forms, not literally, but in jewelry.”

The Gehry Collection will make its debut in April in select U.S. doors, as well as in the flagship in Tokyo, and eventually will roll out into wider distribution for next fall. It will comprise six distinct jewelry collections, as well as a selection of tabletop items that incorporate precious metals, precious stones and wood. Tiffany would not comment on the price ranges at this time, but a spokeswoman did say they would be on par with its other collections.

This story first appeared in the September 22, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“We’re very optimistic about the Gehry Collection,” Kowalski said, adding the designs of Elsa Peretti for Tiffany continue to generate $300 million a year for the $2.2 billion company.

Gehry, who also has worked on a watch line under license with Fossil since 2003, said designing jewelry has forced him to go to a different place in his work, although he wasn’t sure exactly how or whether it might influence his architectural approach going forward.

“Who knows?” he asked. “Maybe it’s time for a sterling silver building.”