Donald Claflin was born in Massachusetts and trained at the Parsons School of Design in New York. He began work as an illustrator and textile designer and moved into jewelry at David Webb, before joining Tiffany & Company in 1966. His eleven years as a designer at Tiffany & Co. are best known for the witty and whimsical figurative jewels he created in vivid gemstones and brightly polished gold – pieces of undoubted opulence and far from serious in intent.
His humorous depictions of animals, sometimes legendary creatures and sometimes characters from children’s much-loved stories such as Alice in Wonderland, remain classics of their time. Along with Jean Schlumberger, he led the way towards a new sophisticated jewelry that other designers were quick to emulate. Following his highly successful years with Tiffany & Co., Donald Claflin became a major designer for Bulgari. Although best known for these jeweled character studies, he was also a skilled designer of more conventional gem-set jewelry and was one of the first in the United States to work with tanzanite, the intense, purplish-blue stone from Tanzania which Tiffany introduced in 1969.