Donald Claflin 1935-1979, originally from Massachusetts, from a wealthy family who paid for his studies at the famous New York School of Design. He started out as an illustrator and designer of prints for textiles. Already in the first years of his career, Claflin earned a kind of reputation as an innovator and even a rebel. He began to engage in jewelry business in a company known for its enamels.
It was in the “enamel” brand that Claflin revealed his ability to work with color and create atypical images for brooches and rings. There is also evidence that he collaborated with Van Cleef & Arpels – however, little is known of his work from those years. And in 1965 he was called to Tiffany & Co. It is under the wing of Tiffany & Co. with the support of the legendary Jean Schlumberger, he was to become one of those who defined the cheerful style of the sixties.
Claflin was a supporter of combinations unusual for those years and an eclectic approach. He did not hesitate to combine perfectly polished yellow gold with Moroccan leather, the rarest diamonds with corals, exotic woods with sapphires of amazing shades.
Subsequently, what Claflin and some other designers did was called whimsical brooches – whimsical, strange, playful. Donald Claflin designed brooches dedicated to the characters of children’s fairy tales. The heroes of Alice in Wonderland and Peruvian legends adorned the dresses of American fashionistas.
One of the most interesting collections is dedicated to China – it contains good-natured dragons and clever street acrobats. The images of the characters were stylized in line with the American animation of those years, for example, the Walt Disney Studios.
Claflin believed that people who are willing to pay for jewelry do not want to buy another classic piece – they want something new, something unusual. Even plant forms, so familiar to jewelers, he interpreted in his own way. For example, a collection of a brooch and earrings with strawberries studded with diamonds and movable – the elements were fixed so that they moved in time with the steps of the owner.
In 1968, he created a magnificent collection of tanzanite jewelry. Claflin was one of the first designers to work with this beautiful blue-purple stone recently discovered in Tanzania. And in 1970, he designed the instantly popular Crisscross ring, in which the central stone is set at the intersection of two metal bands.
He worked for Tiffany & Co. for eleven years, becoming a jewelry design star. Claflin left Tiffany in 1977 on rather bad terms. It is said that he did not get along with Tiffany’s new designer Angela Cummings due to excessive complexity, labor intensity and, as a result, unprofitable production of jewelry according to his sketches.
Unfortunately, the archives of his sketches have not been found, and there are also rumors that Cummings either took them for herself or destroyed them.
In 1970, Donald Claflin went to work for Bulgari, for which he designed much more abstract yellow gold jewelry, since white metals were intended for evening wear in those days, and Bulgari wanted to make jewelry that, according to Paolo Bulgari, “women could wear all the time”. He remained with the firm until his death in 1979.