Playful jewels with designs that stand the test of time
Big and bright – that’s the key to a Verdura jewel. Beautiful gemstones, warm yellow gold and the most playful of designs come together in jewellery that brings a sense of fun. It’s unsurprising, then, that the creator of these jewels began his career with a party.
For Fulco Santostefano della Cerda (1899-1978), later the Duke Fulco di Verdura, a fortuitous meeting with American composer and infamous partier Cole Porter and his wife Linda kickstarted his life as a designer. The couple urged him to move to Paris, where he subsequently designed textiles for Coco Chanel. With fashionable friends, Verdura may have splashed his inheritance on a lavish costume ball at the Palazzo Verdura in 1929, but he certainly gained recognition.
Despite useful connections, Verdura’s talent for jewellery design was evident. By the early 1930s he was designing Chanel’s jewellery and created the now iconic jewelled Maltese Cross Cuffs for Coco Chanel. His work at Chanel caught the attention of renowned fashion editor Diana Vreeland, who bought some of his earliest brooches. Upon his move to America in 1934, it is Vreeland that introduces Verdura to Paul Flato, ‘Jeweller to the Stars’.
As head designer for Flato, some of his earliest designs were destined for Cole Porter to gift to Linda. This friendship was never clearer than in 1939, when Porter and Vincent Astor financially backed the opening of Verdura’s own salon on Fifth Avenue. Though the salon opened its doors on the 1 September, the day war was declared in Europe, clients were not deterred and instead looked to Verdura’s positive jewels. The signature Verdura Wrapped Heart brooches, first released in the 1940s, encapsulate the warmth of his designs: plump hearts, set totally with bright coloured gems, are encircled by ribbons of gold.
The liveliness of a Verdura jewel is prevalent in all his designs: Verdura bought seashells from the American Museum of Natural History and set them in gold and diamond brooches, to the delight of his loyal society clients, and collaborated with Salvador Dalí for a collection of surrealist jewellery sold at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His jewellery is fun, yet still carries the unmistakeable mark of a designer that knew what he was doing.