Fulco Santo Stefano della Cerda, Duke of Verdura, and Marquis of Murata la Cerda was influential Italian jeweler. Born in Palermo from an aristocratic family, the last to bear the now-defunct Sicilian title of Duke of Verdura ], he was the cousin of Prince Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of the famous novel “The Leopard.
In 1919 Fulco met Linda and Cole Porter – wo of his biggest supporters and early backers– in Palermo. Six years later, during a party hosted by the Porters in Venice, Linda introduced Fulco to Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, who would go on to hire him as a textile designer in 1927. She then gave him the task to “update” the settings of jewelry she had been given by ex-lovers, including Bendor, Duke of Westminster, and the Russian Grand Duke Dmitri. Impressed with his work, Chanel began what would be an eight-year collaboration by making him head designer of Chanel jewelry. Verdura created for Chanel the now iconic Maltese Cross Cuffs, setting a gold cross adorned with bright cabochons in white enamel. A year later, Chanel boutiques sold a piece of costume jewelry modeled after the cuffs he created which are now considered the hallmark of the Verdura brand.
Fulco left Chanel in 1934 to venture to the United States with Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg and Princess Natalia Pavlovna Paley. He traveled first to Hollywood and then to New York where Diana Vreeland, a Chanel client, introduced him to the jeweler Paul Flato. When Flato opened a boutique in Hollywood, Fulco joined his design team. “Verdura for Flato” became a signature admired worldwide.
Fulco broke out on his own in 1939, opening a small salon called Verdura in New York at 712 Fifth Avenue with the financial backing of Cole Porter and Vincent Astor. In the designs he made for Verdura, he continuously incorporated themes of nature, creating brooches that looked like leaves made of colored zircons, a pomegranate made of ruby seeds, a gold corncob made with black pearl kernels, and an artichoke made of emerald petals.
In 1941, Fulco collaborated with Salvador Dalí and designed “Night and Day” cufflinks for Cole Porter. Fulco would spend his days drafting precise design sketches, specifying materials, size, and color. Joseph Alfano, Fulco’s business partner, is responsible for preserving a good portion of Fulco’s sketches that now comprise the Verdura archive and otherwise would have been destroyed, rescuing overlooked pages in sketchbooks, scraps left on the floor, and sheets discarded in wastepaper baskets.