I jumped at the chance to cover the evening at American fine jewelry and specialty retailer Verdura, sponsored by the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology Couture Council hosted by Ward Landrigan and Nico Landrigan, Chairman and President of Verdura. The Council makes it possible for the museum to mount world-class exhibitions and to organize public programs. The Council also supports the museum’s conservation laboratory and acquisition fund. Joining the Landrigan’s at their jewelry-box salon overlooking Central Park was co-host Eleanora Kennedy, Couture Council Board member, and Valerie Steele, Director of the Museum at FIT.

Verdura is best known for using large gemstones, yellow gold, and natural objects such as seashells in its work. Verdura was the first jeweler to
promote the use of colored stones with gold for everyday wear. It was also the first to transform classical motifs like coins, ropes, and caning into popular jewelry. Founded in 1939 by Duke Fulco di Verdura, the company’s present-day collection is based on designs created by Fulco during his lifetime, as well as vintage estate pieces.

Upon entering the Verdura showroom filled with beautifully dressed people, I was immediately offered a cool drink and ushered over to Verdura chairman Ward Landrigan. Mr. Landrigan is an exceedingly charming man who kindly and patiently addressed all of my questions. His answer to my query about how he became he became the head of such a prestigious jewelry firm: he loves jewelry and he worked hard. “It is about the beauty, not the money,” he said. When I asked him what was the most expensive piece he ever sold, he pointed to a picture of him and Elizabeth Taylor. Referring to the Taylor/Burton Diamond, he said “that’s the most expensive I can talk about.” The Diamond recently sold for eleven million at Christie’s!

The showroom is suffused with beauty. The eye is immediately drawn to the breathtaking panoramic north facing view of Central Park. Verdura associate Colleen Caslin was right on the mark when she said that she works in a “penthouse in the sky.” The contents of that penthouse are to die for. I spent two hours looking at the most gorgeous jewelry anyone could ever wish to see. My favorite piece was a rope pearl necklace tipped with green tourmaline. I at once touched it and asked for the price. The male salesperson’s answer: “Oh it is not so much. It is only $46,000. And it
would looks so much better on you than on me.” A $27,000 diamond bracelet also caught my eye. Just to satisfy my curiosity, I inquired about price
ranges. Verdura’s least expensive items are $15,000 gold charms. As for the most expensive item, well, this question is devoid of a specific answer.
Suffice it to say that I was informed that “the sky is the limit.” The showroom is situated in exactly the right place!

The most beautiful aspect of the entire evening was Mr. Landrigan himself. Seeking to put my best presentational self forward for this very special
event, I elected to wear my very favorite sparkling star earrings. “I like your earrings,” said Mr. Landrigan.

“What? You spent your life working with out of this world jewelry and you sold the Taylor/Burton Diamond and YOU like my $10.99 star earrings?”

“Yes. Most definitely. I could see them from across the room. They are quite eye catching.”

The value of this comment to me: priceless. I will never forget it.

– Marleen

Photos by Annie Watt

The guest list included:  Noreen Ahmad, James Andrews, Elizabeth M. Armstrong, Louisa Bacharia, Marlene & Maurice Barr, Melissa Berkelhammer, Geoffrey Bradfield, Catherine Carey, Alyson Cafiero, Susan Calhoun Moss, Bonnie Cantor, Liliana Cavendis, Kirsten Chilstrom, Nedinia Criag, Antoinette Denisof, Michelle Lin Greenip, Susan Gutfreund, Montague Hackett, Carole Divet Harting, Elizabeth Haynes, Yaz Hernandez, Mary Hillard, Sharon Hoge, Chiu-Ti Jansen, Nicole Jones, Robyn Josephy, Ray and Karen Karlsrud, Eleanora and Michael Kennedy, Bonnie & Michael Kolblenz, Alexandra Lebenthal, Brenda Levin, Kamie Lightburn, Laura Lofaro Freeman, Chloe Malle, Sarah Mandato, Livia E. Marotta, Sylvester & Gillian Miniter, Alison Minton, Lindsay Moore, Maggie Norris, Rosemary Panzo, Liz Peek, Heidi Pelczar, Bambi Putnam, Barbara Regna, Pascale Richard, Annette Rickel, Clint Rodenberg, Alexa Rudulfo, Anita Roselle, Angela Rothfield, Alan Ruby, Vivian Ruggiero, Annie Safir, Jean Shafiroff, Yoo Rang Shon, Elaine Sourlis, Valerie Steele, Bobby Strutnam, Silvana Suaraz, Jeffrey Thomas and Sarah Wolf.

Mrs. Kennedy wore one of the Vintage Verdura, a 1967 Lily of the Valley Brooch of gold, platinum, emeralds, diamonds and pearls, which was commissioned in the 1940s by Baroness Liliane de Rothschild and crafted from the baby teeth of her children (now replaced by pearls).

Dr. Steele wore the “Comedy and Tragedy Mask” brooch of gold emeralds, sapphires, pearls and diamonds created for Claire Booth Luce.  When she won a Tony award for “The Women” in 1940, Luce was disappointed to learn that her beloved Tony was too heavy to be converted into a brooch so her good friends Jock and Betsy Whitney commissioned this as a Christmas present in 1941.