Fashion On the Cuff

Elsa Peretti & Tiffany & Company iconic Bone Cuffs in 18K gold
Photo: tiffany.com

There is a tendency to overstate and overthink fashion. Jackie Kennedy looked better in her black t-shirt and white jeans than many, if not most, women who are ‘dressed up’ in designer clothing. Nowadays, we are all “off duty” and rely on wardrobe basics more than ever. Accessories can elevate and transform. There are a few that have so much impact they are instant “outfit makers”.

Coco Chanel wearing Verdura Maltese Cross Cuffs
Photo: pinterest.com

I’m always struck by how striking it is to wear a matching cuff bracelet on each wrist. Regardless of the form it takes, it not only pulls a look together; it’s bold and empowering. Think Wonder Woman!

In the 1930s, Duke Fulco di Verdura took a pair of slightly mismatched Byzantine-inspired Maltese cross brooches with multi-colored gems and placed them on two large white enamel cuffs. The Duke designed the cuffs for his friend and muse Coco Chanel and would later go on to create her highly successful line of costume jewelry.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman
Photo: theconversation.com

Coco began wearing the cuffs with her statement-making trousers. She proved that using the profusion of enamel, stones, faux pearls, and metals was a highly effective way to elevate her uniform of understated clothing. And so, the power cuff was born.

“Cuffs convey confidence,” says Ward Landrigan, Verdura’s CEO. “Worn separately or in pairs, they can create a bold, powerful look. You see this reflected in images going back to ancient civilizations.”

Verdura Maltese Cross cuffs
Photo: verdura.com

The aristocratic designer Verdura also gifted the cuffs to Diana Vreeland. The legendary fashion editor, whose wardrobe was predicated on luxurious classics, quickly embraced the double cuff look. In fact, Vreeland bought a pair of matching ivory tusk cuffs in India, and those became part of her signature look as well.

Verdura’s Maltese Cross Hinged Stone Cuffs have become the Holy Grails of jewelry design. They remain Verdura’s most enduring signature style and are worn by a new generation of fashion stars like Sofia Coppola and Naomi Watts, www.verdura.com

Kenneth J Lane’s black enamel Maltese Cuffs
Photo: eBay.com

The cuffs are available in multiple versions and range in price from approximately $40,000 to $100,000. They are available at the Verdura flagship at 745 5th Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, and Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, Tyson’s Corner Virginia, St. Louis, and Atlanta. There are always Kenneth J. Lane’s vintage reiterations for those who can’t swing for the authentic versions. They can routinely be found on eBay, Etsy and vintage websites and will only set you back $150 – $350.

Liza Minelli and Sophia Loren wearing Elsa Peretti large sterling silver Bone Cuffs
Photo: primadarling.com

2020 marks 50 years of Elsa Peretti’s Bone Cuff. It is one of the most iconic and timeless designs in the history of jewelry and with good reason. Nothing is as sensual or modern, and nothing looks better with the simplest of clothing.

Elsa Peretti wearing Halston and her own sterling silver Bone Cuffs
Photo: pinterest.com

The iconic cuffs were first conceived by Elsa Peretti in the 1970s. She was just 30 and living in New York. Elsa designed the small size sterling silver bone cuff for Halston in 1975, and it was retailed by Tiffany & Co. Peretti intended for them to be worn as pairs, like Egyptian royalty. The cuffs are made in three precious metals and come in three sizes. They range in price from $475- $25,000 each, www.tiffany.com

Margot Robbie attends the 2016 Met Gala wearing Elsa Peretti gold Bone Cuffs

When Margot Robbie attended the Met Gala in 2016, the actress accessorized her simple yet stunning Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein dress with Peretti’s matching Bone cuffs in 18K gold. Margot never looked better. But clearly, the beauty of these cuffs is that they are perfect for every day. In fact, that is what makes them so great and so versatile. You don’t need an excuse or a special occasion to pair them with a simple sweater, t-shirt, or button-down.

The re-issued Elsa Peretti Bone Cuffs in bold color with metallic finishes
Photo: tiffany.com

Elsa’s mantra is “Style is to be simple”. Her own terrific sense of style, predicated on the idea of pared-down simplicity, landed her on the International Best Dressed Hall of Fame in 1973. Elsa Peretti turned 80 on May 1st. To mark the occasion, Tiffany & Company released select edition colors of the Bone cuff. The Bone cuffs, which sell for $475, come in red, blue, and green with a metallic finish. Each one is inscribed “special edition.”

Assorted Zuni Cluster Cuffs from Vicki Turbeville’s Collection
Photo: vickiturbeville.com

Nothing goes better with denim than silver and turquoise Native American Zuni Cluster cuffs. And nothing is more effective in adding a touch of glamour and chic. The ones pictured here, priced from $450—$1850, are from Vicki Turbeville’s well-curated collection. Ms. Turbeville, who specializes in high-end vintage and contemporary Native American jewelry, has a store in Redondo Beach, a coastal city in Los Angeles County, and an online shop. She was the subject of a recent article of mine.

Metal cuffs from Zendiaz
Photo: etsy.com

And finally, for those who are really budget-minded, Etsy has a number of dealers, like Zendiaz, who make cuffs to order in your choice of metals, ranging in price from about $25 – $50 range.

Marilyn Kirschner
Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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