Big and bold, yet always classic, Verdura designs some of the most amazing jewelry around. Known for the use of colored stones, statement pieces pop in emerald, amethyst, peridot, sapphire, ruby, agate and more. The “Caged Ring” is made by hand in New York at a workshop that has been with the company since its founding in 1939. The ring, priced at $8500, is made from 18kt yellow gold and the cage contains 23 rock crystal stones in 15 different cuts.
The size and cuts of the stones were carefully selected so that they could fit just right within the cage (not too loose but not too tight). It was a real challenge to cut the stones so they would have just the right movement. The original was made in 1941 in rose gold and aquamarine for none other than style icon Dorothy Paley Hirshon – a piece that now resides in Verdura’s “museum collection” of over 70 vintage jewels.
Born in 1898 at the Villa Niscemi, his grandmother’s palazzo just outside Palermo, Fulco Santostefano della Cerda was known by most of his friends simply as Fulco. While Fulco inherited his legendary eccentricity in part from his aristocratic Sicilian family, he also inherited a talent for drawing, taking his inspiration from the lush gardens and exotic animals of his childhood home and native Sicilian countryside.
Fulco met Cole and Linda Porter on their honeymoon in Palermo in 1919 and remained close with them as he began traveling and exploring the world. In 1925, the Porters invited him to a gala at their Venetian palazzo where he met Coco Chanel. Coco encouraged the young nobleman to join her in Paris to design textiles for her. As their friendship progressed, it became evident that his true talent lay elsewhere: re-imagining and re-working Coco’s démodé jewelry into iconic jewels. As her head jewelry designer, he created Coco’s signature pair of wide, jeweled Maltese Cross Cuffs, which would quickly become known as the “Chanel look.”
In 1934, Fulco came to the United States where Diana Vreeland introduced him to society jeweler Paul Flato, for whom Fulco worked as head designer. In 1939, after years perfecting his craft, Duke Fulco di Verdura opened his own Fifth Avenue New York jewelry boutique on September 1, the same day war was declared in Europe. Despite the inauspicious timing, Fulco triumphed. His backers Vincent Astor and Cole Porter trumpeted his arrival to their friends – the cognoscenti of Wall Street and Broadway. Cut off from Europe during the war, women of style, including Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Marlene Dietrich, Clare Booth Luce and Greta Garbo were delighted to find the glamorous duke and his beautiful jewelry.
At a time when fashionable jewelry was considered to be the largest possible rock in the most minimal platinum setting, he began to work with gold and a rainbow mixture of precious and semi-precious stones. “Mineralogy isn’t jewelry,” Verdura once said. His artistry made his jewelry more than the sum of its parts. Many of his favorite motifs – animals, shells and hearts – had rarely been used as brilliantly. He even collaborated with the surrealist painter Salvador Dali on a series of jewels that were featured in Vogue in 1941.
Throughout his career, he continued to revolutionize 20th century jewelry. Babs Simpson, a client and former editor-in-chief of Vogue, proclaimed, “Fulco’s references to nature, culture, and religion keep his work classic. But without question he was a revolutionary, the one who changed everything. Fulco made it all modern.” Diana Vreeland likewise raved, “He was a true character and we adored him. He was unique, just like his works.” In 1973, Verdura sold his business to his long-time associate Joseph Alfano and retired to London where he continued to paint and sketch until his death in 1978.
At the same time that Verdura sold his business, Ward Landrigan, former head of Sotheby’s jewelry department, made an offer to Alfano for the name and archives. Eleven years later, Alfano agreed. Since 1984, Ward has continued the tradition of creating timeless designs from the nearly 10,000 sketches Fulco made in his lifetime. In 2003, his son, Nico Landrigan, joined him in the family business, receiving the title of President on the day of the company’s 70th anniversary in 2009.
Verdura’s tradition of delivering the utmost in quality and service remains at the core of its business. Verdura designs are brought to life today with the same superior craftsmanship applied for over 70 years, including core workshops in New York and Italy. His pieces continue to appear on the pages of top fashion books and walk the red carpet on celebrity fans, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Anne Hathaway and Cameron Diaz. With the flagship store in New York, overlooking Central Park, Verdura also operates boutiques in Neiman Marcus and Betteridge Jewelers across the nation. The company also maintains an overseas operation through Obsidian of London.
For more information about Verdura, please contact Richard Miner at 212.758.3388 or email@example.com.