Piece of the Week: A Verdura for Chanel Cuff From the ‘30s

CollectionsNov 17, 2023

Piece of the Week: A Verdura for Chanel Cuff From the ‘30s

Up for auction at Bonhams next month, the rare enamel and gem-set cuff is considered the star of the sale.

Verdura for Chanel cuff
Next month, Bonhams New York will auction a rare gem-set “Maltese Cross” cuff attributed to Verdura for Chanel and owned by the first woman to achieve EGOT status, Helen Hayes MacArthur.
Next month, Bonhams New York will auction a rare gem-set “Maltese Cross” cuff attributed to Verdura for Chanel and owned by the first woman to achieve EGOT status, Helen Hayes MacArthur. 

Fulco di Verdura met Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in 1925 and came to work for her in 1927, originally as a textile designer.

After artfully redesigning a couple of pieces of jewelry Coco had received from ex-lovers, Verdura had a new job—designing jewelry for Chanel. It was a job he held for eight years before opening his open boutique in New York City in 1939.

His Maltese cross cuff in particular was a hit—Harper’s Bazaar described at the time as the “accessory choice for every outfit”—and became the hallmark of the Verdura brand. 

Chanel stores sell costume versions of the Maltese Cross cuff to this day.

This particular example is ivory-colored enamel over silver and features a sugarloaf amethyst surrounded by cabochon emeralds, and round- and oval-cut diamonds, rubies, and sapphires.

MacArthur received it as a gift from her husband in the 1930s.

Known as the “First Lady of American Theater,” MacArthur was a star of stage and screen whose career spanned eight decades; she made her theater debut as a young girl in 1905 and was on TV until the mid-1980s.

Her roles garnered her multiple Oscar and Tony awards, as well as a Primetime Emmy and a Grammy award for Best Spoken Word Album in 1977.

She died in 1993 at age 92.

Bonham said her cuff, which has remained in the same family the entire time, is coming to market for the first time. It is in its original box and is in “amazing condition,” the auction house said. 

The Maltese Cross cuff is expected to sell for $125,000 to $225,000 when it goes up for auction at Bonhams’ Dec. 4 New York jewelry sale. 

Caroline Morrissey, Bonhams director and head of jewelry in New York, called the cuff “the star of the sale.”  

“It is an honor to bring such a rare piece with impeccable provenance to auction for the first time,” she said. 

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