Those who consider themselves jewelry lovers are no doubt familiar with the name Verdura.
The venerable company, founded in 1939 by Duke Fulco di Verdura, has quite a glittering history.
The master jeweler, born to an aristocratic Italian family in 1898, would have a career that spanned not only decades and countries but also the worlds of film and theater, society and art. Verdura pieces have graced everyone from Greta Garbo to Sarah Jessica Parker, the Duchess of Windsor to Babe Paley, Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney to Katharine Hepburn.
And in a most glamorous turn, “The Power of Style: Verdura at 75” – a first-ever retrospective that continues in Manhattan – offers a breathtaking glimpse into it all, from the very start.
It was in 1930 that Verdura’s revolutionary Byzantine style inspired the Maltese Cross cuffs he created for his friend Coco Chanel. Within the decade, he would launch his own business in a private “upstairs” studio high above Fifth Avenue, designing one-of-a-kind bracelets and necklaces, rings and brooches, objects d’art and more for a most appreciative audience.
His bold sense of style would be a trademark, as evidenced in his 1941 collaboration with Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí on pieces including the “Medusa” brooch, which features a miniature Dalí painting set within a Verdura design.
Curated by Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera, longtime friends of Verdura, and their daughter Patricia Lansing, the show is not to be missed. There are some 300 pieces – many making their public debut – artfully exhibited in five galleries and 21 displays.
Admire the classic heart- and shell-shaped brooches, the dramatic “New York After Dark” necklaces, the tiara worn by an ambassador’s wife to meet the Queen of England… it goes on and on.
Adding to the unique nature of the show is the way in which Verdura is brought to life. Sketches, ledger books, miniature paintings and most notable, a rare 1957 radio interview, give a vivid sense of his personality.
And the Verdura story was further enhanced on a recent morning when my tour was led by none other than Ward Landrigan, Verdura’s chairman and CEO.
I’m told Landrigan, who purchased the company in 1984, leads the occasional tour – and it was a distinct treat to hear him share his own stories as well as those he has been privy to from his network of Verdura collectors, clients and industry colleagues.
The exhibition continues through Dec. 23 in the elegant suite adjacent to the Verdura Gallery, on the 12th floor of 745 Fifth Ave. (Be sure to peek out the windows for sweeping views of Central Park). Admission is free, though reservations are required.
For more details, or to make a reservation, visit verdura.com.
– Mary Shustack