Posts tagged Verdura cuffs

Salon de Mercure bracelet by Dior in rubies and diamonds.

Marqueterie cuff bracelet by Boucheron in chalcedony, mother-of-pearl and diamonds.

There is no doubt about it, big bracelets are back: in these days of so-called austerity, more is more.  For some years now, jewellery has been mirroring the way we shop: the acquisition of one or two very good life lasting pieces to be mixed in with fun high street buys.  More than one fashion editor is to be seen on social media sporting an armful of pretty bracelets, Dior gold and diamonds stacked up with colourful holiday buys.  The days of wearing a single golden filet on a delicately bronzed wrist have been replaced, in these days of so-called austerity, by the look of ‘more is more’.

In the world of fine jewellery, this has resulted in the creation of spectacular statement bracelets- the elegant, restrained single line of diamonds is now supplanted by fantastical cuffs or strings of impeccably matched beads with beautiful gem set clasps.  In terms of fine and high jewellery, although some of these pieces may cost the equivalent of a deposit on a flat in Kensington, they are far easier to wear.  They transition from day to night seamlessly; a multicolour creation discreetly embellished with diamonds will look just as good with jeans and a Zara jacket as with a designer Little Black Dress.  The same cannot be said for a diamond necklace or oversized chandelier earrings.

My Green Cuff, by Chanel, in diamonds, tourmaline and malachite.

Of course, large bracelets are nothing new- they have been an almost indispensable classic since Chanel teamed up with Verdura to create their famous cuffs.  Today, one of their strongest designs is a piece called My Green Cuff, a strong structural design in malachite and tourmalines which evoques marquetry techniques.  Speaking of marquetry, Boucheron have just launched a range precisely on that premise- their Marqueterie collection is a harmonious blend of greys and blues in chalcedony, mother of pearl and diamonds.  The clean, geometric designs are a refreshing move from the jewelled bouquets and menageries of other jewellers.  The cuff is genius, covered in small triangular stones which have all been precision cut to fit in with each other. 

Over at Dior, Victoire de Castellane offers a more neo-baroque approach with her Dior at Versailles collection, her irreverent juxtaposition of colour continuing to dominate the pieces.  On the British front, Theo Fennell’s solid gold Palm bracelet is an instant classic that should not date.

A lot of what is on offer borders on looking like costume jewellery- almost willing someone to look at the wearer and ask themselves ‘Is that really a £50,000 she’s wearing to lunch?’. It is a whimsical quality which I find fun and highly attractive in fine jewellery. 

The Cuff Queen: Coco Chanel photographed in the ritz wearing her trademark pearls and Verdura cuffs.


The famous paste cuffs Fulco di Verdura created for Coco Chanel.  She embraced costume jewellery and made it acceptable, fashionable and affordable.

It is hard to believe that nearly a century has passed since Coco Chanel opened her couture house in Paris.  Her fashion innovations were so far reaching that most modern women take them for granted.  She liberated them from their corsets, made short hair and suntans fashionable, put them into trousers, created the little black dress.  She was her own person and a shrewd businesswoman, raising herself from convent poverty to a life of great comfort.

Coco Chanel wearing her trademark pearls, Verdura cuffs and signature cigarette.

By designing and creating beautiful pieces of fine and high jewellery, Chanel in its present form is only carrying on a vein which Coco herself started in around 1924.  With the start of Paris Couture Week and the Chanel Centenary just round the corner it is only fitting that we look at this fashion icon’s contribution to jewellery.

With her use of tweeds and jerseys inspired by English life, she created a comfortable, elegant, quietly sumptuous look that her rival Paul Poiret was to call ‘Pauvre Luxe’, which literally means Luxury Poor.  This was her initial approach to jewellery design.  She was already the owner of wonderful pieces, many of them gifted to her by her lover the Duke of Westminster.  Initially, she had no desire to replicate precious jewels as her main desire was to accessorise, not flaunt wealth.  Taking a cue from Paul Poiret, she designed costume pieces which were an instant hit for their daring use of colour which worked beautifully against the dark minimalism of her clothes.  She liked to reference big, bold sources, such as Byzantium and military tassels and decorations, which resulted in jewelled bracelets, large coloured brooches and her signature long gold chains strung with coloured beads.  Defying convention (as usual), Chanel enjoyed mixing fake pieces with real ones and in what was to become her signature look she draped herself in oversized paste pearls, which she wore with the magnificent ones the Duke of Westminster had given her.

Her use of costume jewellery made it fashionable, acceptable and affordable and as the craze took off she met Fulco di Verdura.  He was an impoverished Italian duke with a gift for design.  Chanel originally hired him as a textile designer and recognising his talent, she asked him to create bespoke jewels for her using stones from jewellery given to her by previous lovers.  Impressed with the results, it was the start of a successful partnership.  They pioneered the use of baked enamel jewellery creating maltese crosses and huge, studded cuffs that were (and continue to be) copied the world over.  From this date Chanel was often photographed wearing the two cuffs Verdura designed for her to wear.  Incidentally, these pieces are incredibly valuable: Chanel’s own Verdura paste cuff recently sold at Christie’s for $100,000.

This jewellery creativity climaxed in 1932 when she produced her one and only high jewellery collection.  Again she defied convention by creating jewellery at a time when couture houses viewed this practice by one of their own in trepidation.   This time she abandoned Byzantium and the military for a galaxy of stars- Chanel wanted to ‘cover women in constellations’.  It was made purely in diamonds, and stars were a favourite of hers; she used the motif extensively and her bed in her South of France villa was wrought out of stars and crescents.  It was exhibited at the Grand Palais to great acclaim and stars have continued to be honoured in jewellery creations subsequent to Chanel’s death in 1971.  A fitting metaphor for one of fashion’s greatest figures. 

Two pieces of the high jewellery collection Coco Chanel designed in 1932.  She declared that she wanted to 'drape women in constellations'. 

The Celeste brooch by Chanel Fine Jewellery.  It pays tribute to Coco's love of stars and pearls.