Unbeknownst to Duke Fulco di Verdura, a little brooch studded with sapphires, diamonds, emeralds and rubies would be the foundation for a jewelry house. A protégé of Coco Chanel, Verdura had a list of devotees included Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, the Duchess of Windsor, Greta Garbo, Gloria Vanderbilt and Cole Porter.
The Verdura renaissance began in 1965 when Ward Landrigan, then Sotheby’s jewelry expert, discovered the brooch hidden in Sotheby’s vault. The bejeweled potted plant piqued Landrigan’s interest. Soon, he would sell it back to Verdura, the first of hundreds of Verdura designs to pass through Landrigan’s hands before he bought Verdura’s name in 1985, seven years after the designer’s death. Included were nearly 10,000 sketches by the Italian nobleman.
In 2015, the twinkling, iconic Potted Plant appeared for private sale in Manhattan—and Landrigan bought it back. “It holds memories, history and meaning that money can’t buy,” he says. He won’t ever sell it again, but it can be viewed by appointment at Verdura’s Fifth Avenue salon.
Carol Brodie is a jewelry expert and the host of Rarities Fine Jewelry on HSN. She writes our monthly “Hidden Gem” column. Read her other stories on the origin of bejeweled snake designs and the Marie Louise Diadem and stay tuned for what’s to come!