An ivory-coloured enamel cuff set with aquamarines, emeralds, amethysts, sapphires and rubies attributed to Duke Fulco di Verdura for Chanel has gone under the hammer and sold for $432,300 (approx. €400,000), nearly double its original estimate.

The bracelet sold for $432,300 / Bonhams

The cuff bears a (loosely defined) Maltese Cross design, a call sign of Duke di Verdura that launched his career when the acclaimed couturière Coco Chanel asked the jeweller then in her employ to redesign her personal jewellery collection.

Described as “a jewel of historical importance”, the 1930s gem-set and enamel cuff is believed to have been made while Duke di Verdura was working at Chanel, prior to establishing his own brand.

It was originally owned by Helen Hayes MacArthur (1900 – 1993), known as the ‘First Lady of American Theatre’. She was the second person and first woman to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award.

This was the first time the piece was placed at auction.

Verdura’s Maltese Cross jewellery

Coco Chanel pictured wearing Verdura’s Maltese Cross cuffs in 1935 / Man Ray

Duke di Verdura and Ms Chanel travelled widely, visiting collections around Europe which inspired the first pair of slightly mismatched gold brooches with multi-colour semiprecious stones. In fact, the collage of gems in the pieces is more akin to medieval and Renaissance designs than anything else being produced in the 1930s.

The stones were set in a pattern loosely inspired by the symbol of the Knights of Malta, which Duke di Verdura was familiar with due to his Sicilian background.

That first pair of gold brooches was gifted to Diana Vreeland, a renowned fashion editor who worked with Harper’s Bazaar and served as editor-in-chief at Vogue.

The next pieces featuring the morif, a pair of white enamel bracelets, were created for Ms Chanel’s personal collection. The cuffs were known to be favourite of the legendary designer, who was photographed wearing them on casual and formal occasions alike.

Both Duke di Verdura and the eponymous brand he founded kept the traditional alive, creating bracelets, brooches, earrings and other pieces with the Maltese Cross that have adorned countless women, including the accomplished director Sofia Coppola, who in 2006 described her onyx Maltese Cross Verdura cuffs as her “favourite jewels”.

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