Verdura: The Life and Work of a Master Jeweler
2002 Harry N. Adams
Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn, Babe Paley and Diana Vreeland all wore his jewelry. But Duke Fulco di Verdura is especially known for his creative partnership with Coco Chanel in the creation of the jewelry, mixing the real and the faux, for which the House of Chanel is known to this day. Now that the Maltese Cross and massive jeweled cuffs are getting a second look, it’s fitting to take a look at the talented jewelry designer whose life is as fascinating as his art.
It was in Venice that the handsome Sicilian duke was introduced European society as well as American stars like the Cole Porters. It was Linda Porter who encouraged the artistically talented Verdura to go to Paris where he was introduced to Gabrielle Chanel, then at the height of her career. He was originally hired as a textile designer, then trained by Chanel to make jewelry of precious stones. For years he worked with Chanel to create many of the signature Chanel designs often based on or inspired by pieces in Chanel’s personal collection.
In the mid ’30s, Verdura moved to America where, after being employed by jeweler Paul Flato for a number of years, he opened his own house backed by Cole Porter, among others. The house operates today, selling exclusively the designs of the late Verdura.
Verdura was the first designer to set colored stones into gold when other jewelers were focusing on diamonds set in platinum. To this day he is known for his bold use of color. His naturalistic designs featured as hallmarks at different times, gold ropes and knots, gold leaves, baroque pearls and seashells. But he’s equally known for his whimsy, creating broaches that might almost be considered consider novelty items … animals, knights, snowmen in gold, enamel, diamonds, baroque pearls and other gems.
This book covers Verdura’s privileged childhood, the family’s descent into financial difficulty, and the aplomb with which the charming and literary Verdura smoothly made his way through Venetian and by extension European society to not only survive, but thrive, rubbing shoulders with some of the most outlandish and dynamic personalities of his time.