an inspired marriage—the cuff and the Maltese Cross! The cuff, bold and large, is by its very nature a statement
piece of jewelry; the Maltese Cross takes the basic idea of the
cross and exaggerates it, multiplies it, with doubled ends like
wicked forked tongues. The
result is a Byzantine one-two punch!
di Verdura originally set the Maltese Cross into a cuff for Coco
Chanel when he was in charge of her costume jewelry collection.
Born in Sicily, and a cousin of Giuseppe di Lampedusa whose
book, The Leopard, is
based on their aristocratic family, Verdura was influenced by the
medieval iconography of his native Palermo.
Maltese Cross, also called an Amalfi cross, is the ancient symbol
of the Knights Hospitaller and can still be seen on the new
Maltese Euro coins. It is an eight-pointed cross; the four arms are of
equal length, widening slowly to end in doubled points. Coco Chanel legitimized paste jewelry—with faux pearls
and poured glass she emphasized design and drama over precious
metals and gems. And
the Maltese Cross became a symbol of the beautiful barbarism that
defined the look of Chanel jewelry, appearing not only on cuffs
but on brooches and necklaces and interpreted in different
materials and endless variations. Verdura eventually began his own
design house and one can to this day buy jewelry there based on
his original sketches.
Jay Lane has continued the Chanel tradition of faux jewelry and
offers his own affordable variations on the Maltese Cross. Or one can splurge and buy the modern updated take of the
original cuff at Chanel boutiques. Hit me, baby!