Henry Platt, former Tiffany chairman, dies at 91

MajorsJul 30, 2015

Henry Platt, former Tiffany chairman, dies at 91

The great-great-grandson of the retailer’s founder and the one who gave tanzanite its name died at his home in Palm Beach, Fla. on July 22.

Henry Platt on the day he retired in March 1982 (Photo courtesy of Tiffany&Co.)

New York--Henry Platt, the great-great-grandson of Tiffany & Co.’s founder and the one who gave tanzanite its name, died at his home in Palm Beach, Fla. on July 22. He was 91. 

According to the New York Times, the cause of death was complications from pneumonia.

Platt, the great-great-grandson of the store’s founder, Charles Lewis Tiffany, was born to Louise Lusk Platt and Thomas Collier Platt in New York in 1924. He studied international relations at Yale, served in the Navy during World War II and then briefly worked for the State Department before joining the family business in 1947, serving in a number of different roles throughout the years.

Platt helped to manage and build Tiffany & Co. for 34 years, eventually working to bring the gemstone and jewelry part of the business to the forefront.

Platt also went in search of new gemstone sources, eventually winning the rights to sell a blue gemstone that he would name tanzanite, which eventually became one of the top-selling stones at Tiffany.

He also helped build up the branded jewelry business at the store, bringing in designers such as Angela Cummings, Elsa Peretti and Paloma Picasso.

The New York Times quoted Platt as saying in a 1981 story, “We didn’t have one top jewelry designer in the company. We had an 85-year-old man who had been with us 65 years.”

The famous film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, starring Audrey Hepburn, also was filmed and released during Platt’s career at the retailer.

Platt became chairman and chief executive in 1981, not long after Avon had purchased the company, and was in those positions for just a short time before he was replaced. (Avon sold the company to a group of investors just five years after its acquisition.) 

He retired from the company on March 1, 1982.

“We are saddened to lose Mr. Platt, and our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time,” current Tiffany CEO Frédéric Cumenal said. “He was the last living Tiffany family member to helm this great company. From the discovery of tanzanite, to fostering a generation of named designers whose work has defined modern Tiffany, Mr. Platt helped shape what we know and love about Tiffany & Company. His legacy and influence will be felt for years to come.”

Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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