Christmas Pearls: beauty in the mishape


Baroque pearls, with their odd shapes and ridges, seem never to have achieved quite the cachet of round pearls. One person who fully appreciated their individuality and artistic potential was the jeweller, Fulco Verdura. His early life was spent in Sicily, absorbing baroque style in the architecture and art around him. Later he travelled to Venice and to Paris where he met Coco Chanel and formed a historic design partnership, creating the famous byzantine cuffs.

By the 1940s Verdura had moved to the US and built a highly original and successful business there. Some of his most celebrated pieces were pins or brooches, which had become very fashionable in the 40s as a way of lightening up otherwise sober suits.

Verdura began to design a series of pins based on single baroque pearls, embellishing them to create animal forms – a swan, a camel, an elephant, even a rhinoceros – whatever inspired his interest. His design process was simple: he put the pearl onto a sheet of paper and drew around it, adding different heads and tails, before setting stones about it. His designs recalled the grotesques popular during the Renaissance.

It has become a cliché to pair the words “flawless” or “perfect” with pearls, but sometimes it’s the misfit that packs a greater punch.


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