Henry Platt, the former chairman and CEO of Tiffany & Co. who is credited with introducing tanzanite and tsavorite to the world, died July 22 at age 91.
Platt—who The New York Times dubbed “the personification of an urbane New Yorker”—was the great-great-grandson of the company’s founder. He first joined the family business in 1947, working in the auditing department, eventually transferring to the the diamond, jewelry, and gold divisions, before ascending to the president’s chair in 1974. He was known not just for his business acumen but for his active social life: “If there’s a beautiful going-on, chances are Harry Platt will be there,” the Times said.
In 1968, he was first shown the violet-blue gem that was then called zoisite. He turned Tiffany into the stone’s exclusive distributor and named it after Tanzania, where it was first discovered. “[Tanzanite] does sound more exotic than zoisite,” he said. Tsavorite was introduced six years later, named after the Tsavo River and Tsavo National Park in Kenya.
“I thought that the world was missing a lot,” Platt said in 1980. “They didn’t understand and appreciate the beauty of the many different gemstones. So I decided to work with major designers to place these stones in attractive and desirable settings. I think it’s an injustice to call these gems semiprecious. It’s just that they have different beauties.”
In 1981, he was appointed chairman and CEO. His tenure lasted until the following year, when he retired after 34 years with the company.
He told the Times that he never regretted going into retail.
“I’ve had [an] exciting, stimulating life, not only in the challenge of being connected with a business and surrounded by beautiful objects, but in dealing with ideas, great artists, and creative people,” he said.
Platt “was the last living Tiffany family member to helm this great company,” said Frédéric Cumenal, Tiffany & Co. CEO, in a statement. “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.”