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By Zahra Al-Kateb | July 25 2014
Legendary jeweler Verdura celebrates its 75 years of style with the introduction of the rare, limited edition “Theodora” cuff. The “Theodora” motif on the cuff marks the beginning of Verdura’s career as a jewelry designer and his earliest collaboration with Coco Chanel.
In 1930, Verdura, with Chanel as his muse, shattered the status quo in 20th century jewelry design. The revolution they began broke from the proliferation of platinum and diamond jewelry whose popularity was verging on monotony.
Inspired by the Byzantine mosaic of Empress Theodora at the Italian Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Verdura and Chanel set out to break the rules of popular style. For the first time in the 20th Century, gemstones were pressed into yellow gold in such splendid contradiction to one another: the primary colors of precious rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds were electrified into new life beside the vivid half-hues of semi-precious amethysts, peridots and tourmalines. It was an iconoclast departure. At the time, British Vogue observed the “unusual results and a number of colour harmonies hitherto unknown to jewellery.”
The first foray into this new realm of color was a pair of Byzantine-inspired brooches in loosely cruciform patterns, called the Theodora and Ravenna brooches. These two brooches became harbingers of change, precursors to the full exploration of twentieth century Byzantine style. They were the inspiration for the iconic Maltese Cross cuffs created by the Duke of Verdura for his friend Coco Chanel in the early 1930’s. These brooches were eventually given to Diana Vreeland, a friend and client of Chanel. She further popularized them by wearing them in unusual ways, notably on her turbans and hats. These were a signature of Ms. Vreeland throughout her life.
The body of the cuff itself follows the exact lines of one of Coco Chanel’s original Maltese Cross cuffs, in glossy black enamel over 18K gold. The motif is a vivid three- dimensional variation on the Theodora brooch theme: a centered trio of large gemstones in high relief— a 9 carat sapphire, a 5 carat emerald and a 5 carat amethyst – set in contradiction to one another, epitomizing Verdura’s seminal style revelation. The three center jewels are surrounded by gemstones of every shape and color; among these are rubies, diamonds, aquamarines, garnets, citrines and peridots. The cuff will be made in a limited series of 200, sold in pairs or individually, engraved with a number and “Verdura New York, 1939,” and will be unveiled on October 7. Price: $97,500