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  • Verdura brooch worn by Joan Fontaine in 'Suspicion'

    Jewelry in the Movies: Verdura Brooch

    As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved black-and-white films from the 1930s-1950s. More recently, though, I’ve realized that their one drawback is that we can’t usually see the splendour of the jewelry often worn by female characters. Here’s a case in point: In the photo above from a scene in Alfred Hitchcock`s 1941 thriller Suspicion, Joan Fontaine is wearing a brooch on the shoulder of her suit jacket. A Women’s Wear Daily article that year described the piece as “a handsome jeweled clip [that] provides interest” on the side opposite the fur scarf. But we can’t make out any details. As you’ll see, this jewel is, in fact, a fabulous Verdura brooch. Read on to find out about it, its talented maker, and the movie.

    The Brooch

    Movie stars of Hollywood`s “Golden Age” often wore their own jewels on-screen. This piece was purchased by Fontaine in 1940. It illustrates the maker’s preference for pink gemstones.

    Verdura broochAccording to jewelry expert Marion Fasel, “Fulco di Verdura created the brooch when he opened his New York boutique in 1939. It’s reminiscent of jewels inspired by the Roman god Mercury he had made earlier in the decade when he worked for Coco Chanel as well as during his stint with Paul Flato. The clever silhouette of two elongated pear shape pink topazes weighing around 35.52-carats with magnificently engraved gold wings highlighted by diamonds, suggest Mercury’s winged feet.”

    Fasel’s article explains Mercury’s story and how the movie’s plot may have motivated Fontaine to select this jewel to wear in this particular scene. Let me tell you about Suspicion, so you can decide if the writer’s theory is correct.

    The Movie

    Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine), the shy, inexperienced only-daughter of wealthy parents, falls in love with and marries dashing Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant), against her parents’ wishes. She doesn’t know that he is a penniless gambler and thief who plans to live off of her allowance and future inheritance.

    The couple return from their lavish honeymoon to a newly-redecorated house that Johnnie paid for with borrowed money. In this scene shown below, Lina first learns that Johnnie has no money.

    When she explains that she receives only a small allowance, he agrees to accept a job offer from his cousin Captain George Melbeck (Leo G. Carroll). A short time later, Lina finds out that Johnnie has been fired for embezzlement. She then realizes that her husband has been lying and gambling all along.

    Lina thinks about leaving Johnnie but changes her mind. When her father dies, she inherits only his portrait, rather than the substantial sum Johnnie was expecting. He then enters into a real estate venture with his wealthy but naïve friend “Beaky” (Nigel Bruce). Lina suspects the plan is a guise for getting his money. Johnnie calls off the deal, and the two men leave for Paris. Beaky dies suddenly, and Johnnie lies to Lina and the police about his whereabouts at the time of the death.

    When a letter arrives in response to Johnnie’s query about borrowing against Lina’s life insurance policy, it explains that the money is payable only upon her death. Lina begins to fear for her life.

    And so the suspense continues to build. I won’t spoil the movie by revealing more of the plot because you can see the film very soon. According to the TCM website, Suspicion will be broadcast on Thursday, January 2, 2020, at noon (ET). Set your PVR so you won’t miss it.

    The Jewelry Designer

    Duke Fulco di Verdura (1899-1979), a Sicilian aristocrat, was well-educated, rich in social connections but penniless by the late-1920s when he started working for Coco Chanel as a textile designer. By 1930, the two were collaborating on jewelry designs. His innovative Byzantine-style gold and gemstone jewels appealed to her clients. He then re-designed some of Chanel’s own jewelry, remounting gems from gifts of ex-lovers. He created a pair of enameled cuff bracelets adorned with Maltese Crosses in a kaleidoscope of cabochon-cut gemstones. They became signature pieces for both Chanel and Verdura.

    In 1934, he immigrated to the U.S. The next year, Diana Vreeland introduced Verdura to Paul Flato, who hired him as head designer. Movie stars (such as Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Katherine Hepburn) as well as socialites embraced his style. With these connections and the financial backing of friends Cole Porter and Vincent Astor, Verdura opened his own salon at 712 Fifth Avenue in New York City in 1939. A second location in Paris opened in 1954.

    Verdura retired to London in 1973 and published his memoirs in 1976. In 1983, Ward Landrigan bought the company’s archives, which included nearly 10,000 original drawings, and revived the business. The firm marked its 75th anniversary in 2014 with a three-month-long retrospective exhibition “The Power of Style”. It was featured in a CBS Sunday Morning segment, which opens with a close-up of Chanel’s famed cuffs. I had the good fortune of seeing them when I visited the salon during last month’s New York City Jewelry Week. The company’s mission is “to create bold and timeless jewelry that speaks to a new generation of jewelry lovers”. Read more of their story and see their collection.

  • Cartier bracelets worn by Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.

    Jewelry in the Movies: Cartier Bracelets

    In June last year, I wrote about “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s”, an exhibition I saw in New York City. Among the magnificent jewels on display was a pair of Cartier bracelets bought by Gloria Swanson in 1930 and now part of the maker’s collection. Those bracelets…

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  • 1930s Art Deco necklace

    Jewelry in the Movies: A 1930s Art Deco Necklace

    I love mysteries almost as much as I love jewelry. In fact, I was a dedicated collector of this genre featuring female detectives before I devoted my collecting efforts solely to jewelry. So, imagine my delight when I went to see a new production of Murder on the Orient Express,…

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  • Paul Flato jewelry

    Paul Flato Jewelry in ‘Holiday’

    Before I even knew his name, I was a fan of Paul Flato jewelry. I was introduced to his talent when I first saw Holiday, a 1938 film starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. During that viewing many years ago, I remember wondering if the fabulous three-strand diamond necklace Hepburn…

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  • Flexible choker worn by Ann Sheridan in The Unfaithful

    Jewelry in the Movies: A 1940s Flexible Choker

    Movies produced in the 1930s-1940s rarely credited jewelry. In fact, in many cases, the names of the costume designers weren’t even disclosed on-screen. For this reason, I always look closely at what the female characters are wearing in these films, hoping to recognize a jewel. Last night while watching The…

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  • Movie jewelry by Harry Winston and worn by Ingrid Bergman in Notorious

    Jewelry in the Movies: Winston

    As we eagerly anticipate this year’s Academy Awards ceremony on February 26, many of us are as interested in what the stars will be wearing as who will win. And the dazzling jewels worn on the red carpet will get as much press as the gowns they adorn. So with…

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  • Kate Winslet would look stunning in these earrings (and so would you)

    In The Dressmaker, Kate Winslet’s Tilly Dunnage brings haute couture-inspired fashions in rich jewel tones and sumptuous fabrics to the women living in the dreary, dusty, rural Australian town of her childhood. The film is set in the early 1950s, when the hour-glass silhouette was in vogue: sloping shoulders, pointed…

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  • Jewelry in the Movies: Ruser

    Although vintage costume jewelry is the focus of my life and work, I am also a fan of beautiful fine jewelry created in the 1920s through the 1950s, the decades I specialize in. (Fine jewelry is jewelry created with precious metals – such as gold or platinum – and precious…

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  • Hollywood Glamour

    As a life-long lover of old black-and-white movies, especially those from the 1930s and 1940s (Hollywood’s so-called Golden Age), I enjoy seeing many of them over and over again. The first time, I’m obviously paying attention to the plot. But in subsequent viewings, I can focus on the jewelry and…

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  • The 1920s Roar Again with ‘The Great Gatsby’

    With jewels by Tiffany (based on designs from the company’s archives) and evening gowns by Miuccia Prada in collaboration with Catherine Martine (long-time costume and production designer, and wife of the director), Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby promises lots of eye-candy for lovers of the Art Deco style, which was…

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