Bright Lights

By staff March 1, 2006

The item: A Verdura Byzantine-style necklace of lavender amethyst, pink tourmaline, peridot and gold, priced at $33,000. The Byzantine theme, which is used frequently in Verdura jewelry, stems from a trip that Duke Fulco Verdura took with Coco Chanel when he was her jewelry designer in the 1920s.

What makes it special: Rarity, eccentricity and exclusivity. High-powered people who aren't intimidated by the eccentric and fantastic gravitate toward the Verdura look.

Today you choose from one of Verdura's vintage sketches or from a ready-to-buy collection (two each year). Verdura jewelers will also custom craft jewelry with your loose stones or theirs.

Behind the brand: Fulco di Santostefano della Cerda (1898-1977), Duke of Verdura, was raised in aristocratic luxury and educated in the arts in Palermo, Sicily. In the 1920s, Cole and Linda Porter befriended the young nobleman and introduced him to Coco Chanel. Verdura and Chanel shared a lucrative eight-year business partnership. In an era when most jewelers were setting diamonds in platinum, Verdura used gold, just as in the Renaissance. He also popularized the mixing of many brightly colored stones and convinced women it was fine (and refined) to don diamonds in the daytime.

Fulco Verdura established his own firm in New York in 1939. In 1985 Ward Landrigan revived the Verdura brand when he bought the name and 10,000 Verdura sketches.

Who has some: When he was the darling of high society, Verdura supplied the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Babe Paley, tobacco heiress Doris Duke (whose collection was auctioned off in 2004 with huge fanfare), Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. Katharine Hepburn wore Verdura in The Philadelphia Story. Of course, Linda and Cole Porter had buckets of it, from brooches, rings and bracelets for her to cigarette cases for him, one to mark each Broadway musical hit. When Ashley Judd played Linda Porter in the recent biopic De-Lovely, she was swathed in vintage Verdura-one of the best reasons to see the film. Last year, First Lady Laura Bush wore a triple-strand Verdura necklace when she posed for Vogue.

Where to buy it: In New York at 745 Fifth Ave.; in Palm Beach at 38 Via Mizner, Worth Ave.; and in London at 13 Duke St.

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