Star Jones, Charlie Rose and Manhattan’s Most Discreet Fine Jeweler

1003_mockup.gifThe line to get into Michael’s snaked onto the sidewalk today as the fall power lunch season finally got under way. There were talking heads (Star Jones, Charlie Rose) and media types (David Zinczenko, Jack Kliger) and the usual well-heeled crowd who just couldn’t wait to get down to business.

I was joined today by the dashing and delightful Edward Landrigan and Nicholas Landrigan, the father and son team at the helm of Verdura, the venerable jewelry house favored by style icons like Greta Garbo, the Duchess of Windsor and Marlene Dietrich and loved by contemporary stylistas like Sofia Coppola. Verdura’s signature bejewelled cuffs, which I’ve coveted forever, are truly one of the most sought after (and copied) pieces of jewelry ever designed.

 CEO “Ward” bought the company in 1985 and “Nico,” its president, has worked at the company since 2009. It was clear talking to these gents that the passion for fine jewelry runs in the family. Ward got the bug working at a jewelry store as a teenager, which set him on an unexpected career path for a fellow with a “blue collar New Jersey” upbringing. (“When I told my father I was going into the jewelry business, he asked me, “How are you going to make a living?’) His decades-long career included his tenure as head of the jewelry divison for Sothebys USA which brought him into the orbit of legendary jewelry lovers like Elizabeth Taylor. “Jewelry is the last talisman in today’s society,” Ward explains. “When a woman puts on a favorite piece of jewelry, whether its costume or the real thing, and her face lights up, it’s magic. There’s something very special about that, and it’s something I have always enjoyed about the business. I have a passion for it.”

Ward Landrigan, Diane Clehane and Nicholas Landrigan
Ward Landrigan, Diane Clehane and Nicholas Landrigan
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‘Nico’ went to Brown and considered a career in the law while working in the Fraud Bureau of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office before joining forces with his father. “I wanted to make sure I really wanted a career in law before I actually committed to it,” recalls Nico. In the end, his path seemed all but predestined. “From the time I was six until I was eleven, I thought what my father did was the coolest job in the world,” Nico told me. Says Ward: “On a trip to India when he spelled his name out in sapphires, I knew that was it.”

It was those years spent looking over his father’s shoulder where Nico absorbed much of what he would need as Verdura’s president. “I learned to have an opinion,” he told me which, it turns out, is critically important in dealing with the house’s most discriminating clients. Nico’s innate understanding of the significance of Verdura’s storied history has also set the house apart from its more in-your-face jewelers. I was fascinated as Nico spun a straight out of Hollywood tale which chronicled the house’s beginnings: backed by Vincent Astor and Cole Porter, Fulco Verdura opened the jewelry house in 1939 and in short order became the favored jeweler of none other than the legendary Diana Vreeland.

One need look no further than the red carpet for any of Hollywood’s big award shows to see what sets Verdura apart from the bling brigade today. For flashier houses, “It’s all about moving merchandise,” says Nico of the practice of draping every television starlet in diamonds and then trumpeting the feat in a flurry of press releases. “We don’t play the ‘diamonds by the yard’ game.” Instead, Verdura caters to those who know of its unique history and are looking to stand out from the pack. “For us, it’s about people who love to wear inherited pieces versus those whose jewelry screams ‘Look how much my husband makes!'”