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Jewelry Designer and Artist Alfred Durante Dies
He designed for European and Hollywood royalty at Cartier.
He was 84.
Durante was born and raised in New York to a father who was a painter and a mother who was a milliner. Early on, his artistic talent was apparent and nurtured.
“Their fine examples instilled a love of art, design, and the creative process in me, and their support led to my acceptance at the prestigious Art and Design School in New York,” the designer wrote on his website.
It was at the school that his teachers selected him out of all the students to interview at Cartier.
He interviewed with Claude Cartier, sketching a floral brooch on the spot. Cartier and his team discussed the work in French as Durante sat in apprehension.
“Clearly, they must have been impressed with my attention to detail and imaginative jewelry creation, as I was personally invited to serve an apprenticeship at Cartier by Claude Cartier,” he wrote.
He described his rendering process as such: “I used to joke that I was like a visual stenographer, capturing the thoughts of a person and quickly turning them into finished sketches.”
After school, Durante would rush to Cartier for his apprenticeship to hone his rendering and designing skills, which served as the foundation for his long career in jewelry.
It was the 1950s, and Hollywood glamour was at its height. Durante had many chances to contribute to it as he transitioned into a career at Cartier, with Claude Cartier guaranteeing him a position for life.
Durante would meet in a private salon with famous and important clients, turning their visions into jewelry designs that could be properly executed in the workshop, relying on his knack for “visual stenography” to interpret their desires.
“I was very attentive when listening to clients, trying to understand who they were, what they were looking for or what they wanted to project,” he wrote.
Some of his most famous works include the 60-carat diamond ring Richard Burton gave to Elizabeth Taylor, the redesign of the Mary Queen of Scots “La Peregrina” pearl necklace, Grace Kelly’s engagement ring and wedding band, and pieces for the 1974 version of “The Great Gatsby.”
He designed for European royalty and Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe.
“In my mind,” he wrote, “jewelry was not meant to simply be an accessory. It should be a star on its own and stand out and make a statement.”
Durante worked at Cartier for 28 years, ultimately serving as vice president of design and production.
He went on to work in other mediums throughout his life, creating fashion apparel accessories, a line of fashion dolls, limited edition collectibles, fine porcelain and crystal, flatware, and one-of-a-kind gift items. He even created the original Golden Globe award.
He is survived by his husband William Ryan; his brother Eugene Durante; nephews Alfred Durante (wife Jeanne), Ronald A. Durante Jr., Eugene Durante, and James Durante; niece Christina Jean Durante; great-nephew Ronald A. Durante III; and great-nieces Alexandra Durante and Celine Jolie Fremed.
He is predeceased by his brother Ronald A. Durante and parents Alfred and Jean Durante.
According to his obituary, a private service will be held in his honor in New York City.
Donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in lieu of flowers.
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