I recently attended a beautiful party thrown by Verdura. I can never decline an invite to a jewelry showing, since I love the sculptural quality of gems, the colors, and -- of course -- I'm drawn to anything that sparkles.
I tend to be a bit of a wallflower at big events, but this time it paid off: While I was standing in the corner I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who works at Verdura, who offered to let me try on an amazing pair of cuffs that were created for the Duchess of Windsor. I was mesmerized by the stunning craftmanship and stones, and also learned more about the fascinating story behind the jewelry house.
Turns out that Fulco Santostefano della Cerda, Duke of Verdura, met Coco Chanel at a party in Venice in the 1920's. Chanel hired him as a textile designer but eventually commissioned him to re-make gems from old flames. Verdura flourished and produced very unconventional pieces for the time, mixing precious and semi-precious stones and pouring enamel over silver. Chanel wore the originals and copied them as costume jewelry for her own line, which you can still see traces of today (Maltese Cross, anyone?).
In 1934, Verdura moved to the US and was introduced to legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland, who became a loyal fan and helped him attract a star following (Joan Crawford, Audrey Hepburn, and Doris Duke were all clients). Verdura retired in 1973, giving the business to his associate. Twelve years later, Ward Landrigan, the former head of Sotheby's USA jewelry division, acquired the company -- along with nearly 10,000 of Verdura's original sketches stored in black plastic garbage bags!
Originally, you could only see the jewels by appointment. Now, the baubles are offered in select stores and the company has its own flagship on Fifth Avenue where even non-royals like me can ogle the gems!
Photo Credit: Maltese Cross Hinged Stone Cuffs and Five Stone Cuff, Verdura.com