Jewelry and Joie de Vivre – Verdura’s Sparkling Exhibit

Oh, there are bigger, flashier exhibits, but “The Power of Style: Verdura at 75” is transporting. No where else will you see such gorgeous jewels alongside such rare period photos of the film stars, royals  and swells who wore them.

The pair of cuffs Fulco di Verdura designed for Coco Chanel. He said she was the chicest woman he ever knew. Photo via Jewels du Jour.

I fainted when I saw this emerald “scarf necklace.” It was weeks before the exhibit and they let me try on the copy they’d made. I swooned again. They didn’t let me try anything else because they did not want to keep holding me up.

 This image via Town & Country, here

Fresh from Russia with a cache of emeralds, Bill Paley’s first wife, Dorothy Paley (later HIrschon), asked Verdura to make her a necklace she could wear during the day, meaning without diamonds. So he made her an emerald ”scarf” with a gold clasp. Photo Town & Country.

But wait! There’s more!

There’s Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo, the Duchess of Windsor and Diana Vreeland, Cole Porter and Coco Chanel–and the actual jewelry they wore, not reproductions.

Greta Garbo loved her Curb-Link watch and bracelet. From Verdura exhibition catalog.
Tyrone and Annabella Power at left, Marlene Dietrich at right, from the catalog.

There are Fulco di Verdura’s own design sketches …

Fulco di Verdura’s designs in gouache, as exhibited in The Power of Style: Verdura at 75. Photo courtesy Verdura.

…as well as a collection of exquisite miniature paintings he did as gifts to friends. I went nuts over these, more so than the jewelry, possibly, but don’t tell my husband.

Miniature paintings by Fulco di Verdura, as seen in The Power of Style: Verdura at 75. Photo courtesy Verdura.
Miniature paintings by Fulco di Verdura. Photo courtesy Verdura.

There is such a richness of creativity and joie de vivre here that you cannot help but be inspired by it. I felt ten carats happier just for seeing it–not only the jewelry but the care and cleverness in the exhibition itself.

One  of many exhibit cases in The Power of Style: Verdura at 75. Sketches for some of these pieces can be seen in the photo above. Photo courtesy Verdura.

 Curated by the late Duke Verdura’s friends Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera, and their daughter Patricia Lansing, the show includes 150 pieces loaned by collectors from all over the world. Kudos also to the dashing Nico Landrigan, now president of the venerable firm purchased 30 years ago by his equally dashing father Ward, for the sheer effort and ingenuity in renovating and designing the intimate display space. 

The Power of Style: Verdura at 75. Photo Verdura. Verdura and Chanel in background photo.

This dare I say jewel of an exhibit is on through December 23, Monday-Friday from 11 to 5, and Saturdays starting November 29, also 11 to 5, at 745 Fifth Avenue, 12th floor, adjacent to Verdura’s showroom.

Verdura-Snail-Brooches. Photo via Jewels du Jour

 Addenda: Tis the Season to Be Jewelry

Since I mentioned other jewelry exhibits, and if you are a magpie like me and attracted to shiny objects, you probably know about Sotheby’s November 20-21 sale of  Bunny Mellon’s “Jewelry and Objects of Vertu,” but you may not know that the website has a lovely video wherein Ward Landrigan talks  about Mrs. Mellon’s confident taste and her husband’s patronage of Verdura. And… see Jewels du Jour’s favorites here.

I discovered the blog Jewels du Jour in the writing of this post. Where has she been all my life? Author Natalie Bos did a beautiful job introducing the Verdura exhibit here, and she revisited the exhibition again last week, including more photos and history.

Also not to overlook is Treasures from India–Jewels From the Al-Thani Collection now on at the Met. If you like, you can see the whole thing from your sofa, as each object is on the Met’s site. Not quite the same, but all this jewelry is exhausting and you may need a rest.

Oh and just for fun, you may have seen the crown jewels at the Tower of London, but you can re-visit Crown Jewels via The Daily Telegraph here . (Warning: eye-popping, even if you’ve seen them before.)

Queen Mary’s crown. Photo via The Daily Telegraph.

And finally, speaking of London’s Tower and seeing as it is the week of Veteran’s Day, if you haven’t seen those World War I commemorative poppies surrounding the Tower, see them via CNN here. They honor those who fought and died so that others might survive and prosper. For some that means celebrating the power of creativity and finding beauty in everyday living–jewelry or no. Amen, and thank you.

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 16: Queen Elizabeth II visits the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red evolving art installation at the Tower of London on October 16, 2014 in London, England. 888,246 poppies will be planted in the moat by volunteers with the last poppy being planted on the 11th November 2014. Each poppy represents a British or Colonial fatality in the First World War. The poppies are for sale with 10% plus all net proceeds going to six service charities. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images. Caption, CNN)
Verdura bejeweled shell brooch. Photo via Jewels du Jour.


  1. OH GOOD GRIEF…………..THAT EMERALD SCARF………………OH GOOD GRIEF……….here I sit awaiting the entourage of the BIRTHDAY SON who shall dine with us tonight with his friends……I have a few pearl necklaces on with a dash of rhinestones……..I think I need more!!I shall watch the videos tomorrow with my coffee!

    1. Lord have mercy……. I KNOW…… But I bet you look smashing in your sparkles and pearls. Have a good time, and thank you for writing Contessa. xo Frances

  2. all too stunning and sparkle…. mad for Verdura! thank you for letting us know about the exhibit and all the exhibits! the last shell brooch is breathtaking.

  3. Nothing like all that fabulous eye-candy to warm one during this late Autumn cold snap.
    I don’t know about you, but I wept when I saw the Queen walking among all those poppies on television yesterday. That was such a profound and memorable display.

  4. Thank you for sharing these special pieces! This year’s Sotheby’s sale should be
    competitive, with Bunny Mellon’s things for sale. I am sharing the Sotheby’s listings
    with friends! I hope Santa can find something that you would enjoy, too!!!

    1. You are so welcome, Patricia, and thank you for writing! I am looking forward to seeing the Bunny Mellon preview this week. They have it all set up like the rooms in her house, which sounds amazing. xo Frances

  5. What classic pieces that really stand the test of time. That scarf necklace should be reproduced in all kinds of semi-precious stones for us of the proletariat. The coral, sapphire and diamond shell brooch would be just perfect under my Christmas tree. Thanks for sharing, Frances, with those of us who don’t have a trip to NYC in our near future.

  6. Frances,
    Duvall has not a wrinkle nor do you..maybe I could cover my wrinkles with the emeralds and if you get a wrinkle…pass on. Believing in fairy tales and those emeralds qualify. The Queen in the poppies is moving as the wars were fought on their soil. No one could have dreamed a more fitting tribute. Saw the Mellon Farm once with jet and landing strip, gardens, wonderful house and stables, and horses.. beautiful. Happy she lived to old age there. Such a good blog, enjoying!
    most cheerfully,

    1. Darling Lynn, you are so funny! And while I cannot speak for my beloved sister, I most certainly have wrinkles! Yes the emeralds are a fairy tale, my oh my. Looking forward to the Bunny preview and sorry never saw it in person. I was an arts editor in Richmond when they gave part of their collection and donated part of a new wing to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. It was quite a moment in the ’80s. Love to you, and thank you, Frances

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