Duke Fulco di Verdura (1899–1978) began his career in 1920s Paris, designing the iconic Maltese Cross Cuffs for his friend Coco Chanel. In 1934 Verdura ventured to America and designed jewels for stars of the era, including Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. He officially became an “American jeweler” on September 1, 1939, the day war broke out in Europe, when his friends, Cole Porter and Vincent Astor, financed his debut on Fifth Avenue. With Europe off-limits during the war, Verdura gained a following of high-profile clients among New York society and fashion’s best-dressed list, enticed by Verdura’s bold yet understated “chic”.
In 1985, Ward Landrigan, head of Sotheby’s US jewelry department, purchased the company, including its archive of nearly 10,000 original sketches, and set about to bring Verdura’s timeless designs to a new generation of collectors. His son Nico joined the company in 2004 and currently serves as President alongside Ward, Verdura’s CEO. In 2014, the company celebrated its 75th anniversary with a 3-month retrospective exhibition that attracted over 8,000 attendees.
“The myth and legend begins with a Sicilian noble named Fulco Santostefano della Cerda, Duke of Verdura and Marquis of Murata la Cerda who became great friends with Diana Vreeland, Cole Porter, andCoco Chanel. It was with Mademoiselle Chanel that he traveled to see the mosaic of the Byzantine Empress Theodora in the Chapel of Ravenna in 1930. The rich gold and jewel-toned tiles in the mosaic inspired the two to create a design that countered the platinum and diamond Art Deco style of the time and create a pair of cuffs that featured irregular-shaped semi-precious stones set in gold.
The cuffs soon became a Chanel and Vreeland signature. Verdura came to New York in 1939 already fully socially connected—Cole Porter and Vincent Astor backed his business. The jewelry was worn by Garbo (a gold curb link bracelet—she kept it on while gardening), Tallulah Bankhead, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn and assorted Astors, Paleys, and Whitneys.” – Stellene Volandes, Town & Country Magazine