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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cuff Love: Verdura and Chanel Made Quite a Pair

The Sicilian duke Fulco di Verdura ran with a fast crowd in the '20s, so it was only a matter of time before he crossed paths with Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel–a real dynamo whose meteoric rise as a couturière, businesswoman and social climber knew no limit. Chanel originally hired Verdura to design textiles, but she quickly recognized his talent for jewelry and initiated a collaborative partnership that produced some of the most memorable baubles of the 20th century.

Although Verdura's ambition ultimately propelled him to New York and Hollywood, he's probably
best remembered for the Maltese cross cuffs he first made Chanel. (She wore them for decades.) They were further popularized by Diana Vreeland, who was so partial to various Verdura pieces one wonders if she ever took them off. Whether gossiping with Halston at Studio 54 or terrorizing underlings at the Costume Institute, she was often photographed wearing the duke's jewelry like fashionable versions of military decorations.

In 2007, the house of Verdura (overseen by
CEO Ward Landrigan and his son and president, Nico) acquired Chanel's original cuffs; this year, they took advantage of the company's 70th anniversary to offer limited-edition reissues made of enameled gold set with sapphires, rubies and emeralds. They're not inexpensive, but their beauty and iconic status make them signature items any chic, no-nonsense woman would reach for every day. Average the cost-per-wear over a lifetime, and they're practically free. You do the math.

Photographs courtesy of Verdura; portrait of Chanel by Man Ray, 1935