The birth of Verdura jewelry is the stuff of myths and legends, beginning with Fulco Santostefano della Cerda, Duke of Verdura and Marquis of Murata la Cerda. The Sicilian nobleman rubbed shoulders with countless A-listers, none more important than Coco Chanel herself, whom he had met at a party thrown by composer Cole Porter. He traveled with Chanel to Ravenna, Italy in 1930 and it was there that, inspired by jewel-toned Byzantine mosaics, the two designed a pair of cuffs featuring semi-precious stones set in gold. These Art Deco-style Maltese cuff bracelets became a signature of Chanel’s style and by the time Verdura traveled to New York in 1939 prepared to open a jewelry boutique, he was sufficiently socially connected. Cole Porter and Vincent Astor provided financial support and the rest, as they say, is history.
In the following decades Verdura’s success steadily grew, his jewelry gracing the likes of Greta Garbo, Tallulah Bankhead, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn and members of the Astor, Paley, and Whitney families. He redesigned Chanel’s jewelry line with both costume and precious jewelry, including a Maltese Cross bracelet, which would become one of his signature motifs. A witty, erudite, and charming man, Verdura was a welcomed guest at high-society parties which helped him to maintain and grow his clientele and in 1954, he opened a second location in Paris.
Verdura was self-taught and had developed a keen eye for color and design via his love for Renaissance art combined with memories from his fairytale aristocratic childhood, which included elaborate costume parties, lush gardens, and exotic animals. His jewelry was fashionable, yet rooted in historical motifs (such as the Maltese cross), and characterized by bold, rich colors and shapes: voluminous bows and knots, cabochon-cut gemstones, and curvaceous shells and leaves. He retired in 1973 and sold the business and his archives to his associate Joseph Alfano. The company was eventually purchased in 1985 by Ward Ladrigan, a Verdura devotee, and it continues operation today in New York under the leadership of Nico Ladrigan, producing high-quality jewelry from Verdura’s archival sketches.
Auction Results Verdura