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Dec 1, 2011

A TAIL TALE















the snake necklace
in sterling silver and 18k yellow gold
(designed 1974)








...The idea for this necklace came from the endpiece of a rattlesnake tail, given to Elsa Peretti by a Texan as a good luck charm. A venomous serpent native to the Americas, the rattlesnake has a long history in folklore. "I thought Americans had to be brave, having these kinds of snakes in their backyards... i kept the object with me for many years. The expertise of excellent craftsmen and my will brought the snake to life in silver and gold." (Elsa Peretti, 1990)

Information from Robert Corio of Designs International on the manufacture of the snake necklace:
'The links are bean-shaped and come in several sizes to accommodate the taper in each snake. Originally the necklace took 70 man hours to assemble these tiny beans. After the beans are cast, using a sprue long enough to help with handling, the beans are finished outside. To deal with the pitting, a specially-made curved hammer is used to mend the imperfections from the casing process. The two constants are shape and weight, i.e. the craftsmen have to ensure that the bean does not lose its shape in the hammering and that it doesn't lose too much weight as there is inevitably some casting surface that is removed. After hammering they need very little polishing.
Assembly is begun in the middle, working outward to the tail in one direction and to the head in the other, attaching one link in each direction alternately, ending with the 28" length. The craftsman who assembles the necklace follows an enlarged chart referencing number and size of the 191 moving parts. Each link is then secured to the next link and care must be taken to avoid fusing the links together and thus losing the movement of the links. Each link is then hammered to burnish over metal to provide a clean surface that won't show any evidence of assembly and to ensure the look and feel that Elsa Peretti demands. The head is made complete before attaching and is tested repeatedly while adjustments are made until it works properly. The underside of the head has a safety catch also in the form of a snake head and stops the catch from slipping. While attaching the head and tail the body is covered with a protective paper so that no repolishing is needed, as every piece is delivered with a mirror like finish and flawless to the eye. The snake is constantly limbered during the process to make sure it is flexible throughout and to retain its fluid movement.
It takes 8 different specialists to make the snake, there are 18 operations for the entire piece, and weighs approximately 4 ounces of 18 carat gold."








©Elsa Peretti® Tiffany&Co.