Sicily in Jewels: The precious legacy of Duke Fulco Di Verdura

I wrote a few days ago about Villa Niscemi, once home to Fulco Di Verdura, the Sicilian duke whose memoir so enchanted me. As an adult he moved to New York and became a jeweller. His dazzling artistic legacy has Sicily in every jewel.

First let’s look at this elephant:

He was inspired by the iconic landmark of Catania. The statue is made of the black rock from Etna that covers the beaches around eastern Sicily.

Now for some legacy. These are medieval Sicilian crowns:

Here are the crosses and other jewels that they inspired Fulco to design:

You can’t visit Sicily without falling in love with the beaches and their exciting shells. There are even some beaches in Sicily where amber washes up, and every one has golden sand and sparkling pebbles. Fulco recreated them in pure gold and precious gemstones.

His love of nature shows in all his work. In his memoir he described how happy he was playing out of doors in the plants and dirt. He was fascinated observing leaves and insects.

The pomegranate is still regarded as a symbol of fertility in Sicily. I was given pomegranates as gifts when I became engaged to Hubby. Fulco interpreted this traditional Sicilian symbol in rubies and diamonds:

Do you recognise this mosaic? It adorned the bedroom of King Roger, in the Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo.

Fulco interpreted it in various forms of leopards.

Here’s a picture of this talented Sicilian.

Portrait of jewelry designer Fulco di Verdura. (Photo by Horst P. Horst/Conde Nast via Getty Images)

Here’s one more piece of work with a connection to Sicily that some people may not recognise at first. The snakes represent the hair of Medusa, that monster of ancient Greek mythology whose face was so ugly it could turn people to stone with one glance. This was a Greek myth, so why was it Sicilian?

Siracusa, on the south-east corner of Sicily, was a Greek colony so large and successful it overshadowed Athens itself. And it is filled with Medusa sculptures absolutely everywhere. Why were the so obsessed with her? She was used to ward of the evil eye, or envy. The idea was that if anyone was having evil thoughts about the city, Medusa’s ugly face would bounce them right back upon the evil-wisher. When you’re the richest city in the known world, such precautions are vital.

I think Fulco put a jewel in the centre, in place of her face, because of the legend of Perseus. He managed to kill Medusa and cut her head off, so the legend goes, by fighting her backwards and only looking at her by using his gleaming polished shield as a mirror.

Here’s a picture of one of the many, many depictions of Medusa from ancient Siracusa:

Now I shall leave you with a selection of Fulco’s finest.

Sicilian card games!

The perfect stocking filler.

Participate in a Sicilian tradition by buying a book of Sicilian card games on Amazon. 

Buy the bestselling pocket edition or the full colour large format edition with three bonus games. Also now available in the Italian language!

You can also buy packs of Sicilian playing cards on Amazon and many websites.

 


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