Fulco Santostefano della Cerda, Duke of Verdura (1898-1978), was born into an aristocratic family in Palermo, Italy. He developed an early ambition for drawing and had a great fascination for the natural world. Driven by his creativity, Verdura headed to Paris in the mid-1920s with the hope of becoming a painter. Having previously met Cole and Linda Porter in 1919, while they were on their honeymoon in Palermo, Verdura was able to secure a job with their help with none other than Coco Chanel. He first began as a textile designer, but after realizing his refined skillset, Chanel began to collaborate with Verdura on her costume jewelry collection.
Verdura became restless in Paris and headed to the United States in 1937, where he rubbed elbows with the rich and famous in New York, Palm Beach and Beverly Hills. These acquaintances created connections that would help Verdura throughout his career. A fortunate introduction by Diana Vreeland, former Vogue editor, to Paul Flato opened the door to a new opportunity. Verdura was hired by Flato as part of his design team in New York and later worked for Flato in Los Angeles.
In 1939, Fulco di Verdura headed back to the East Coast and set up his own appointment-only salon in New York City, catering to the desires of the social elite. He opened a second salon in Paris in 1947. His bold designs and striking use of color captured an unconventional glamour that was highly sought after by his patrons. Celebrities and socialites, like Rita Hayworth, Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, the Duchess of Windsor, the Mellons, the Rockefellers, and the Whitneys, frequented his salon and were often seen adorned with Verdura’s creations.
Perhaps best known for his use of large precious and semi-precious gemstones, yellow gold and themes inspired by nature, Verdura created eccentric designs that could be worn both during the day and evening. From gemstones wrapped in roped gold and diamond ribbons to bright gold seashells and autumn-colored leaf brooches, his works, on offer in this sale, reveal a sophisticated playfulness that only Verdura could truly capture.
Fulco di Verdura retired in 1973 and he passed away in 1978. In 1985, Edward J. Landrigan purchased the house and established a salon at 745 Fifth Avenue. Verdura jewels continue to be reissued today based on Fulco di Verdura’s original drawings. They are created in a manner consistent with the Duke’s tradition and keep alive his stunning designs and vibrant imagination.
Cf. P. Corbett, Verdura: The Life and Work of a Master Jeweler, New York, Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, 2002, p. 184