Verdura, The Jewelry Line that Launched Ships in Search of Sea Shells

By | Fashion and Accessories History |

Someone once said “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Well, in the case of Verdura jewely it is a little bit of both.  Being born a Duke and meeting Coco Chanel most certainly helped Fulco di Verdura, but his art is undeniable.  I enjoy the line even today. Their jewely is a thing of beauty, based mostly on his old designs created while he was living as well as antique pieces. What’s not to love? Okay, the price may fall into the what not to love, as I was reminded recently at an auction. An iconic shell design, which was estimated at much lower, went for $80,000.  That is a house to many people in today’s economy. But before we freak out, let’s enjoy the art of the pieces. As they say there is no charge to look-well that depends sometimes on what you are looking at, but anyway…It did have just everything right. Created in 1972, a very iconic work with the precious stones and shell, and it had a letter.

John Moran Auctioneer image. Verdura letter.

Fulco was born in 1898 in Sicily and his interests are chronicled on Verdura jewelry’s vibrant image filled about us page. The history found on the company’s website is worth the look!  Now if you find it hard to relate to his opulent upbringing you may not be alone. However, his work has stood the test of time and you really can’t buy his kind of talent.

Coco Chanel in Fulco’s Maltese Cuff design. Man Ray Image.

Fulco was not known at all in the world of fashion design, until he met Coco Chanel. She saw something in him and fostered his talent by hiring him to work with her on textiles. However, as you can probably guess he sort of rebuilt her jewelry line.  Love her iconic maltese cross cuffs? Yeah those were Verdura!  They worked together from the 1920s-1934, per the Verdura website. There is a whole lore about her asking him to create pieces from jewelry collected from her past beaus.  Maybe that is how it all started, sitting in Coco’s amazing apartment tinkering with jewelry together?  However, there is no mistaking that his Maltese crosses were based on his love and study of art history, especially Renaissance art.  This combined with Coco Chanel’s design aesthetic and polish led to the creation of the magical maltese cuff. They traveled Europe for inspiration together and settled on the Maltese cross as a point of departure. 

Platinum, made in 1967 Verdura. Scratch numbers ”C1906”, the camel body set with a baroque cultured pearls, full-cut round diamonds, yellow sapphire and ruby bead camel brooch. John Moran Auction image.

Why is Verdura important to the history of jewelry design in the United States? 

That brings us to our shells and his NYC store. Verdura is known as sort American jewelry royalty. We claim Verdura because in 1939, he transplanted to NYC were he opened his first jewelry store.  As he is reported to have said, he was inspired by his breaking away from his past: “There was no past for me here”(  His designs quickly caught on and he became a popular choice for the stars. Garbo was a dedicated admirer of Verdura jewelry.  He spread his wings to the west cost and started making jewelry for a well known designer Paul Flato.

Fulco worked until 1973, this is where our 71 pin/necklace comes into play. It was designed and produced while he was still alive and working at Verdura.  He passed away in 1978.  The demand for anything produced before 73 is thus higher!  The company was purchased by a longtime admirer and continued the rich tradition with such guidelines and attention to their vintage line.  The above image is  a Verdura Sketch of the famous Emerald Scarf Necklace designed for Dorothy Paley in 1941.

Shells Glorious Shells:

When he purchased shells from the Museum of Natural History he sort of changed jewelry design history.  The use of sort of earthy non precious elements with fine stones that we often see juxtaposed began with his shells. He mixed fine stones with these sea creatures, filling them with beautiful and expensive elements.  Others later followed suit after this line became so popular and desired!  I think this is also something that has both inspired my work and jewelry choices. There is a certain poetry to abandoning the conventional monetary notions of natural stones and elements and letting go to create a final successful product. It is poetic that someone born with so much, could appreciated this juxtaposition of simple objects with the “fine”.  

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