Head Designer at Coro during Costume Jewelry's Golden Age 1935-1950
Gene Verri, the designer who raised the standard of American costume jewelry design and helped bring it to world recognition died Sunday December 30, 2012 at his home in Rhode Island at the age of 101.
He drew inspiration from nature and sea life to create intricate, colorful and three dimensional jewelry designs. Among his most famous creations are the Coro Duettes of the 1930's and 1940's ~ brooches consisting of figures mounted on a base or in a frame and cleverly constructed to break apart in two separate pins that could be worn as clips. His Quivering Camilia pin, famous for its sophisticated tremblante action, was a million dollar best seller for Coro during the late 1930's.
Gene was born Guido Verrecchia in 1911 in Providence RI. His parents Guiseppe and Filomena had immigrated to the US from Italy in 1904. Finding life difficult in the US, the family moved back to Italy in 1914. As a young boy, Gene grew up in a small town, Filignano, south of Rome near MonteCassino. Tragically his mother died at the age of 36. His father decided it was best to send his three sons, Alfred and twins Guido and Alfeo, back to the US to live with relatives, a courageous voyage for a 16 year old and his two 12 year old brothers. The boys, born in Providence were US citizens. Their father, an Italian citizen had to wait several years to join them due to quota restrictions.
In Providence, Gene demonstrated exceptional artistic talent by winning an eighth grade art contest. The prize was classes at the Rhode Island School of Design. He attended classes while working part time to help support his family. In 1933, he was awarded top honors in jewelry designing by the New England Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths Association. This award was presented to the top student in the department of Jewelry and Silversmithing at RISD. Shortly after, he started work at Coro where he was soon made head designer at the age of 22 years old. Coro's VP of sales and marketing, the prescient Royal Marcher, correctly sensed that the popularity of the current art deco style was beginning to wane and saw that Gene had the vision and talent to create an entirely new look. Working with pins with snap on initials, charm bracelets and finally Coro's famous Duettes, Gene's job was to move the company's designs away from flat, colorless geometric art deco into highly modulated, more naturalistic and colorful three dimensional compositions. This helped make Coro the country's premier costume jewelry manufacturer.
After serving in the United States Army during WWII, Gene returned to Coro. In 1951, he Americanized his name to Gene Verri. In the mid 1960's, after 31 years with Coro, he left to work full time at his own company, Gem Craft, where he collaborated with his identical twin Alfeo, also a talented designer. Today. Gem Craft creates upscale fashion jewelry for leading designers such as Oscar de La Renta and Kenneth Jay Lane.
At 101 years old, Gene Verri was still at the bench. He continued to work at Gem Craft where he demonstrated a penchant for designing and crafting special one of a kind pieces for his family and friends.
Recently a collector of vintage jewelry visited Gem Craft. In recognition of his work, she said wistfully to his son Ronald that she wished she could have had a chance to meet the man who designed so many of her vintage pieces, Ronald's response....you still can, he's in the next room working!
Gene is survived by his devoted wife Mary C. (Giammatteo) Verri, three sons; Ronald Verri and his wife Carol, Robert Verri, Esq., and his wife Kathleen and Richard Verri, Esq., and his wife Saundra. He was the beloved grandfather of seven; Christine Higgins, Jennifer Verri, Lauren Thomas, Michael Verri, Matthew Verri, Joseph Verri , Vanessa Minteer and great grandfather of five. He was the brother of the late Giannina Scittarelli, Alfred Verrecchia, Alfeo Verrecchia,and Reno Verrecchia .
Relatives and friends are invited to attend his Mass of Christian Burial Thursday at 12 noon in St.Mary Church, Cranston. Burial will follow on St. Ann Cemetery, Cranston. Calling hours are respectfully omitted. Memorial contributions may be made to the Verri Scholarship Fund Rhode Island School of Design 2 College Street, Providence, RI 02903.
Please visit www.WoodlawnGattone.com for online condolences.
Reported: 12/31/12 (Show all obituaries for this day)
By: Woodlawn Funeral Home (Show all obituaries and information about this funeral home)