Tamsen Z (Est. 2010?) Ann Ziff is the jewelry designer behind the brand known as Tamsen Z. Ziff has had a life-long love affair with jewelry and is known for her ability to find and use the world’s most exceptional gems.
As a child, Ziff was fascinated by the elaborate jewelry worn by her mother, famed American opera singer Harriet Henders. Encouraged by her late husband, William B. Ziff, Jr., she began buying stones and creating her own original jewelry.
From rare Australian black opals to prized Paraiba tourmalines and extraordinary Colombian emeralds, Ziff’s collection evolved into one of the world’s most preeminent collections of privately owned gemstones. Her Tamsen Z line captures the beauty of these stones in handcrafted pieces that are one of a kind.
Ziff designs each unique piece herself choosing and arranging the stones, sketching the designs by hand, and she personally strings every gold, pearl, and gem bead necklace. Her artistry lies in the mixing of color, texture, and material that include sparkling black diamonds strung with sapphires and handmade gold beads, rainbow-hued black opals surrounded by electric green demantoid garnets and vivid blue haüynites, as wells as shimmering South Sea pearls set off by diamonds and aquamarines.
A native New Yorker, Ziff is as passionate about giving back as she is about jewelry design. Her philanthropic work includes serving as Chairperson of the Metropolitan Opera, for whom she has designed one-of-a-kind jewelry featuring crystals from the opera house’s famed starburst chandeliers.
She also serves as vice chairperson of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Art and also serves on the board of the American Museum of Natural History. Ziff was a psychiatric social worker for many years and continues to work to help children in need and bring culture and arts into the lives of young people.
She resides on the Upper East Side, where she now conducts her business since she closed her retail atelier.
Her creations of necklaces, rings, earrings, bracelets, pendants, pins, and cufflinks use well known gemstones and others such as Apatite whose name comes from the Greek word ‘apate’, meaning “deceit,” and refers to its similarity to crystals of other minerals such as aquamarine, amethyst, and olivine.
Apatite is commonly found as well-formed, transparent crystals, and in masses or nodules. It can be intensely colored, occurring in green, blue, violet-blue, purple, colorless white, yellow, or red forms. The most popular color is a rich blue.
Apatite can be found in many localities including the United States, Mexico, Namibia, Canada, and Russia.
Ziff also uses beryl in several varieties of gemstones each distinguished by its color. Elements such as iron, chromium and manganese give these gemstones their brilliant colors. In addition to the most well-known beryl – emerald – the beryl family includes aquamarine, heliodor and morganite, among others.
Ziff’s repertoire includes citrine which is yellow to reddish orange quartz. It derives its color from trace elements of ferric iron. Natural yellow quartz is rare with the finest quality material thought to be from Bolivia. Gem quality citrine is also found on the Isle of Arron, Scotland; in the Ural Mountains; in the Salamanca Province in Spain; and in Russia, India, France, Mexico, Madagascar, and Brazil.
She also incorporates ivory which is formed from dentine, a substance found in all mammalian teeth and tusks. Ivory for carvings and jewelry often comes from whales, walruses, hippos and wart hogs in addition to elephants. It has been used for thousands of years and like other organic materials, it is softer than many gemstones and more easily carved. The earliest known use of the material is from mammoths who roamed the earth 30,000 years ago.
Highly prized by the Greeks and Romans, as well as in China and Southeast Asia, ivory has been fashioned into sculpture, decorative art, and jewelry. Today the use of elephant ivory is strictly regulated to protect the elephant population. Modern ivory is therefore banned in many countries while prehistoric and antique ivory is legal and highly sought.
Kyanite is named from the Greek ‘kyanos’ for its dark blue color. Kyanite occurs principally as elongated, flattened mica-like blades and less often as radiating, columnar aggregates. While usually blue or blue-gray, it can also be green or colorless. It has been located in Bahia, Brazil; the St. Gotthard region in Switzerland, and in Yancy County, North Carolina.
Kunzite was discovered in 1877 in Brazil and named after the pioneering gemologist George Frederick Kunz. Its soft pink color makes kunzite a highly sought after gemstone. Most common in pale pink, kunzite reaches fine quality in intense pink and violetish purple. High quality, saturated kunzite is extremely rare and often collected by top gemstone connoisseurs. Kunzite can be found in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Brazil, Madagascar, and California.
Ziff has also been known to use Lapis Lazuli, Labradorite, Meteorite, Moonstone, Opal, pearls, rubies, sapphires, and more.
Among the celebrities known to wear her creations are opera star Renée Fleming and the television journalist Robin Roberts.