A Cross to Wear: Verdura’s Byzantine Pendant Brooch

Thanks to Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and her omnipresent cuffs, there couldn’t be a more iconic design in the Verdura oeuvre than the Byzantine-inspired Maltese Cross. And yet, you won’t find the look among the 10,000 sketches in the 72-year-old company archives. “This was an art project, if you will,” president Nico Landrigan says of Duke Fulco di Verdura’s revolutionary ’30s gold and semiprecious stone creation. “And he happened to be doing it for his buddy Gabrielle.” The brand revived the Maltese motif about a year and a half ago, and ­Landrigan says he “can’t imagine ever stopping” making pieces such as this handcrafted 18k gold pendant brooch (retail: $32,000, which includes a 19-inch chain). “How many stones are in any given one—30, 40? There are thousands of ways you could make this,” he muses. “Maybe we’ll do an all-diamond version next.”

Brooching the Subject

This particular piece features an 11.50 ct. amethyst; 6.90 cts. t.w. emeralds; 1.80 cts. t.w. rubies; 2 cts. t.w. blue, yellow, and pink sapphires; and another 12.50 cts. t.w. of assorted semiprecious stones. Of course, “it’s never the same way twice,” says Landrigan, estimating that Verdura has produced 12 to 15 similar pieces in the past year and a half. “That sounds pathetic,” he says with a chuckle. “But it’s because we don’t make a lot of anything. We don’t just cast a cross, set up the conveyor belt, and start cranking them out. We probably could be much better businessmen than we are if we made more.”

Chain Reaction

“The fellow who makes the chains—it really is honest-to-goodness the last handmade chain workshop around,” says Landrigan. “Going in there is like stepping back in time. They draw out their wire with this hand crank, and they’ve got this sort of ancient-looking pneumatic die-striking press.” In the last five years, Verdura’s business with the New York City chain maker has only grown.

Gold Standard

“See the little tiny prongs that hold the stones in?” asks Landrigan. Goldsmiths in Italy studied Coco’s original cuffs to replicate that “very specialized” technique. “If you just take one step back, you do have the impression that a random assortment of colors and sizes and shapes and cuts were just pressed into gold.”

More from the vault on JCKonline.com:
+ From Spore to Store: Jewellery Theatre’s Magic Mushroom
+ A Tour of Theo Fennell’s Secret Garden Ring
+ The Belle of Van Cleef & Arpels’ Bals de Legende Collection


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