Chanel & Verdura

Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, a visionary in fashion and style, held a profound belief that jewellery should evoke wonder rather than envy. This ethos laid the foundation for her collaboration with Duke Fulco di Verdura, a partnership that would leave an indelible mark on the world of jewellery design, weaving together threads of creativity and innovation to create sartorial magic.

For Chanel, jewellery was not merely an adornment but a means of self-expression and personal challenge. She delighted in the art of repurposing gems from her own collection, infusing them with new vitality. Among her treasures were magnificent emeralds, prized rubies, and an array of semi-precious gemstones, which she combined to create bold and dazzling displays of colour.

In 1927, Chanel sought the assistance of Verdura in bringing her creative vision to life. Amidst a backdrop of gleaming stones and vibrant hues, Chanel guided Verdura in the art of crafting mounts from soft putty, encouraging him to explore and experiment until the perfect balance of colour and form was achieved.

Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel wearing her Verdura Maltese cross cuffs / Alamy

Verdura’s initial creations for Chanel were a testament to his daring approach. His designs, characterised by the interplay of gemstones in a kaleidoscope of colours and shapes, with a deliberate sense of asymmetry and depth, would become hallmarks of his distinctive style. Many of these pieces, originally crafted for Chanel herself, would later be replicated in semi-precious and non-precious metals for sale in her boutiques, following widespread admiration and publicity generated by Chanel’s public appearances wearing the originals.

Verdura’s rainbow-hued creations proved to be an unparalleled success, embodying the opulent allure that was synonymous with the Chanel brand. Yet, his artistic vision extended beyond mere aesthetics, drawing inspiration from history and tradition. A passionate historian, Verdura found fascination in symbols of honour and distinction, particularly those of the Knights Hospitaller of St. John and Jerusalem, known as the Knights of Malta. Their distinctive crimson Maltese cross captured Verdura’s imagination, and he transformed it into an enduring motif. Gilt versions encrusted with multi-coloured cabochons would adorn Chanel’s belts, lapels, and hat bands. Over the decades, these Maltese crosses would become synonymous with Verdura’s craftsmanship and Chanel’s legacy.

Verdura’s most iconic creations in the form of Maltese cross jewels were a slightly mismatched pair of white enamel bracelets designed for Chanel’s personal collection. Each cross boasted a completely distinctive arrangement of stones, adding to their individual charm. Reflecting the design duo’s nonchalant approach to distinguishing between fine and costume jewellery, the bracelets were crafted from a base silver alloy. Chanel held a deep affection for these pieces. They adorned her wrists in both formal and casual settings, making frequent appearances in photographs and portraits. It would be fair to say that she wore them with unwavering abandon.

The collaboration between Coco Chanel and Fulco di Verdura reshaped jewellery design, blending creativity with innovation. Their partnership produced pieces that transcend mere adornment, embodying Chanel’s belief in evoking wonder. Together, they crafted a legacy that continues to captivate and inspire.

Our Important Jewels Auction will take place on Tuesday 16 April in Sydney. For viewing times and to see the full catalogue please visit our website.

By Lauren Boustridge, Senior Jewels Specialist

Top Image: (left) Verdura sensational wood, gem-set and diamond Maltese cross cuff-bracelet. $50,000-70,000
(Right) Verdura outstanding wood, gem-set and diamond Maltese cross cuff-bracelet. $50,000-70,000

April 2024