Coco Chanel had an eye for playboys and a knack for identifying impoverished royalty with useful talents. A stream of penniless nobles and notorious cads with fat wallets marched through her boudoir. Many of which contributed to her success and her legend.
Fulcodi de Verdura was an Italian Duke with noticeable artistic talent and limited finances, a textbook example of Chanel potential. She hired him to design textiles then asked him to re-design several of the jewels given to her by her ex-lovers. It was the beginning of a historical partnership.
The jewels he created for her became the hallmark of her iconic jewelry collection. The Maltese crosses and Byzantine themes are still considered classic Chanel. The pieces were big bold statements with eye-popping colored gemstones: Verdura is credited with being the first to mix colored gemstones with gold. The Verdura style was much copied then and still is today.
Verdura moved to NY in 1939 and opened a small salon on Fifth Ave backed by Cole Porter and Vincent Astor. He sold his business and retired in 1973 leaving thousands of sketches to the new owner. His designs are still made and sold from the New York salon and at high end jewelry and specialty stores.
Practicing Wishful Thinking
Verdura, whether new or vintage, doesn’t come cheap. These are baubles with serious heritage. So if they are out of reach to own, consider finding inspiration in gazing at them in print. Verdura: The Life and Work of a Master Jeweler
In India, land of lavish exotic jewelry, the idea of birthstones is sooo…western. In their Vedic jewelry tradition nine gemstones are assigned to nine planets. You select your jewelry according to what part of your life needs a tune-up.
For instance, if you’re interested in achieving fame and commanding power, you wear a ruby. If your memory needs a jog you might boost your brain power by wearing an emerald.
Even though Indian weddings are notorious for being sumptuous jewel fests, you’d never find an emerald anywhere near an Indian bride, as the gems are said to interfere with conjugal relations.
Ancient scholars have traced the idea of birthstones back to the Breastplate of Aaron in the book of Exodus. His vestment was a religious garment made with twelve colors representing the twelve tribes of Israel. A corresponding gemstone was attributed to each color and set across the garment in four rows of three: sardius (carnelian), topaz and carbuncle (garnet); emerald, sapphire and diamond; ligure (orange zircon), agate and amethyst; and beryl, onyx and jasper.
Each of the twelve gemstones was said to have special powers associated with a corresponding astrological sign, and that wearing these stones at the right time would have therapeutic or protective benefits. It was common to collect all twelve stones and wear them in planetary rotation or when one felt the need for a particular power boost.
The modern birthstone list was put together in 1912 when the National Association of Jewelers created the list by assigning gems to months. It didn’t change until 2002 when the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) declared tanzanite to be a December birthstone, though turquoise and zircon were already designated as such. The Jewelers of America liked the idea and made the overtly commercial statement,
“JA sees the addition of tanzanite for December as a way to build business. Any step that helps retailers sell more jewelry is a good one.”
In 2006 Tanzanite One, a large tanzanite mining company, designated the stone “everyone’s” birthstone and suggested that it be given as a gift to all babies at birth. Their advertising slogan, “Be born to tanzanite.” No ancient wisdom. No shamanism. No mystical powers declared. What’s a gem without a story? Just another rock…
Sweep and sew and cook and clean,
Smile when Esmeralda’s mean.
Try not to make your Stepmom mad.
All this time where was your Dad?
It’s my lame attempt at grade school poetry but didn’t you always wonder why Cinderella’s Dad never showed up to protect her from her evil stepmother and those sloth-like stepsisters? Her patience was rewarded. When the last glass shoe dropped she ended up with a prince, a palace, and a happy ending. All she had to do was work like a slave and believe in magic.