By and  on November 5, 2007

In today's highly populated fine jewelry market, where newness often garners more praise than timelessness, Verdura continues to do its own thing.

The jewelry firm doesn't offer seasonal or even new collections, nor is it a huge advertiser. The company prefers a more cocktail party, word-of-mouth type of marketing strategy than billboards and bus stop signage.

But that doesn't mean Verdura is standing still. The brand that offers up baubles for the Upper East Side set with a clubby Fifth Avenue retail environment is expanding its reach with a new London salon. In celebrating its 70th anniversary this month, Verdura also is releasing a limited edition piece, the Icon Bracelet, which is an homage to founder Fulco Santostefano della Cerda, Duke of Verdura, known as Fulco di Verdura. The style is a combination of Verdura's most popular charms on its rope chain and only 100 will be produced, each featuring the signature V logo, Verdura seashell, wrapped heart, comedy and tragedy mask, Maltese Cross and chessman.

In tandem with the bracelet's release is a retrospective exhibition titled "Verdura: The Life and Work of a Master Jeweler," at the Houston Museum of Natural Science beginning Nov. 16.

Since Fulco di Verdura's heyday in the Forties until his death in 1978, the firm has switched hands but hasn't lost the integrity of the craftsman's original treasures. The size of its archives are so vast, the original designs so directional and focused, that Verdura doesn't feel the need to create new pieces, only breathe life into old ones.

Clients who have invested in pieces such as the style of emerald necklace worn by Brooke Astor or the pink topaz earrings that also were purchased by Doris Duke know they would maintain or grow their value.

"With Verdura, you can wear the same piece that Greta Garbo wore," said Verdura president Michael Heitner. "Not a lot of brands out there have that direct link to history and we don't make that many pieces, so if you have a brooch you bought from us, there may only be 10 others in the world. It's a unique selling point for us."

Not only does the jewelry preserve Verdura's roots, but the firm's retail presence is in line with the way Fulco operated. Verdura doesn't maintain a freestanding store, and its Fifth Avenue salon is more like a club: Few know how to visit it except for clients, their friends, or tourists staying in the right hotels with the right concierge."There's a lot of pressure on us to open a retail store on the street," said Heitner. "We've resisted it because we do business differently than the way other people do business. We're not a megabrand, we're not trying to be a megabrand and that's the balance we try to find because the exclusivity is what's so appealing to clients. But at the same time, we want to grow the brand in the right way so more people know about us."

In the last six years, Verdura has expanded its retail strategy by wholesaling to Bergdorf Goodman and, as of last year, three Neiman Marcus locations: Beverly Hills, Dallas and Atlanta.

"The Verdura business has been extraordinary," said Ed Burstell, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of beauty, jewelry and accessories for Bergdorf Goodman. "Our customers have responded extremely well and it's a direct combination of a couple things. One is the product and two, we are the perfect retail match for Verdura. Our customer appreciates really exclusive, fine product and the fact that the distribution is so tight really adds to just how desirable it is. It's been an extremely smart strategy."

In its beginning effort at becoming a global brand, the firm will open this month its first European retail location since Fulco's Paris boutique in the Fifties. Similar to its Fifth Avenue post, Verdura's new London site on Duke Street is more a salon and is designed to celebrate the relationship between client and jeweler.

The 650-square-foot space is situated at the headquarters of Harry Fane, who deals in vintage Cartier watches and objets d'art, and has been staging Verdura's annual summer selling shows since 1987. According to Fane, he's already sold about $200,000 worth of jewelry in anticipation of the opening.

Whether Verdura ever decides to change its approach with new collections at retail, Heitner would rather its timeless pieces remain just that.

"Our product never goes out of style, so we don't have the same needs as other brands trying to grab onto a season," said Heitner. "Our core line is pretty much our line."

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