Covering the fine jewelry market, I've tried on some fantastic pieces -- 50 carat rocks at Graff, vintage Mauboussin collars at Siegelson, even a tiara or two -- but none as pedigreed, iconic and original as Coco Chanel's matching set of Verdura Maltese cross cuffs.
The second the clasp clicked secure around my wrist, I could swear I felt the presence of Chanel herself, as I was surrounded by framed photos of her and other famous Verdura ladies at the jeweler's Fifth Avenue salon.
The pair of ivory-enameled silver bracelets, topped with a Byzantine-inspired gold Maltese cross embedded with a profusion of electric-colored stones, was acquired by the current Verdura chairman, Ward Landrigan, five years ago. The acquisition -- estimated to have cost well into the six figures -- was a coup for Landrigan, who beamed with excitement and pride as he discussed the pieces.
The bracelets became a signature of Chanel's, who wore them constantly, both for daytime and evening. Landrigan was mum on whom he acquired the cuffs from, but he noted its gems came from Chanel's own collection of stones. The sapphires, emeralds, amethysts and aquamarines were removed from other pieces of her jewelry that didn't quite meet her critical design standards, with the help of the brand's founder, Fulco di Verdura.