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Verdura Delves Into E-Commerce

Fine jeweler is getting a facelift with a revamped Web site.

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWDStyle issue 03/07/2011

NEW YORK — Fine jeweler Verdura is getting a facelift with a revamped Web site that also moves the septuagenarian firm boldly into e-commerce.

Ward Landrigan, owner and chief executive officer, and his son Nico, president, faced the challenge of fitting 70-plus years of history onto one site. “The hardest thing was to translate what our message was into something that’s electronic,” said Ward Landrigan.

The company enlisted the help of Web developers Dotbox to design the site. Dotbox has a background in luxury online, having created the e-commerce sites for Harry Winston and Henri Bendel.

The finished product features vibrant images of Verdura jewelry and vintage photographs from the company’s archive. Only the “Essentials Collection” of about 21 styles is available for purchase online, however, with prices ranging from $3,500 to $17,500. Verdura.com offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, and a page to schedule an appointment with a local Verdura dealer or speak with a representative.

As a fine jeweler, Ward Landrigan was concerned about translating the brand’s personalized customer service onto an electronic platform. “I think people don’t really want to be sold jewelry; they usually have something in mind,” he said. “Usually what they have are a lot of questions.”

As a result, the site was conceived as an educational tool for potential buyers. Landrigan asserts that fine jewelry education has become increasingly necessary in recent years due to the growing number of wealthy consumers. “Traditionally the people who bought jewelry were from families who had money. Usually in a family like that, there’d be a mother, a grandmother or an aunt who would teach the younger one about jewelry and they’d learn from their relatives,” said Landrigan. “Well, the buying public has changed and like a lot of these young men that earn money now…they don’t have any idea. So there was a lot of thought going into this site so that people don’t make an expensive mistake.”

Another substantial focus of the site is the incorporation of Verdura’s history via a collagelike archive section.

Verdura founder Fulco di Verdura “was discovered by Coco Chanel, which was a good start for any young man. She adored him, and he worked for her for eight years and designed all of her jewelry,” said Landrigan.

From Paris, Verdura traveled to New York, and was introduced to jewelers via Diana Vreeland. In 1939 he began Verdura on the same day war was declared in Europe, according to Landrigan. The world’s misfortune was Verdura’s silver lining, however. “The Americans who were going to Europe to buy jewelry, now couldn’t. He came on the scene and his timing was perfect. By accident more than good planning really,” said Landrigan.

Verdura’s life was a gilded one, and he mingled among the moneyed crowd he sold to. “He was the only jeweler I knew of who was a part of the same society as those he was serving. He wasn’t just a jeweler, he was their friend,” said Landrigan. Cole Porter and Vincent Astor were his financial backers, Babe Paley his muse, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his naval cabinet were customers, and Salvador Dali a collaborator. This fall, the company is planning a collection inspired by Verdura’s years in Hollywood. The line will be centered around iconic Hollywood women who wore Verdura jewelry.

According to Landrigan, capturing the glamour of Verdura’s history was a daunting task, as was evoking the designer’s inventive use of color in his creations. Dotbox creative director Zo Björgvinsson said, “We spent a lot of time and energy trying to capture the history, and also the nature of Verdura. Verdura jewelry is about style. It’s also about unexpected ways of exploring materials to make stylistic gestures. So on the Web site we tried to capture that.”

The move into e-commerce makes Verdura one of the few fine jewelers to sell online and represents somewhat of a gamble, since part of a jeweler’s air of exclusivity stems from the fact that its products aren’t too widely available. “[Oversaturation] was very much a concern. On the other hand, I’ve been doing this now for 26 years, and people are aware of us, but unless they live within a reasonable distance, they can’t have it. And all the rest of America, they know the product, but unless they’re in New York, they really can’t buy it,” said Landrigan.

He continued, “It’s sort of like walking a tightrope — you want to be available, but not too available. And you’re telling a story without looking commercial, though obviously we’re in commerce because we’re trying to sell jewelry.…It makes you look at yourself, putting a Web site together.”