I was very fortunate to meet this wonderful designer back in 2005 at
the VFCJ Convention, and hear him speak on the history of Coro, and
the influence of jewelry that came out of Providence, RI. He was so
very talented, and very humble, and gave of his time freely to those
of us who have been collectors, dealers and authors of the influence
of the big designers, VCA, Cartier, and others whose designs were
the basis of the early costume jewelry business. He was still
working every day at Gem Craft, even at his age!
Even though we are all sad at his passing, he had a wonderful full
life, and to be able to continue at his age was amazing.
Longtime Coro designer Gene Verri dies at 101
Warwick, R. I.–Gene Verri, one of the top designers during
America’s “golden age” of costume jewelry whose pieces now populate
museums, died Sunday at his home in Rhode Island. He was 101.
Born Guido Verrecchia in Rhode Island in 1911, Verri moved with his
family, which was struggling in America, back to Italy in 1914 and
grew up in Filignano, a small town south of Rome.
Verri’s mother died tragically at the age of 36, when he was just 12
years old. Verri’s father then sent his three sons, Guido, his twin
Alfeo and Alfred, back to the United States to live with relatives.
In the eighth grade, Verri won an art contest that afforded him
classes at the famed Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), which he
attended while working part time. In 1933, the New England
Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths Association recognized him
as the top student in the department of jewelry and silversmithing
Shortly after he started work at Coro, where he was head designer by
the age of 22, tasked with moving the company’s designs away from
flat, colorless geometric Art Deco designs into colorful,
three-dimensional works. Among his most well-known creations are the
Coro Duettes of the 1930s and 1940s, brooches consisting of figures
mounted on a base or in a frame that can break apart into two
separate pins to be worn as clips.
Verri served in the U. S. Army during World War II but returned to
Coro after the war, Americanizing his name to Gene Verri in 1951.
After 31 years with Coro he left in the mid-1960s to start Gem
Craft, where he collaborated with his twin brother.
Verri remained at the bench at Gem Craft, which is now run by his
son Ron Verri and creates fashion jewelry for designers such as
Oscar de la Renta and Kenneth Jay Lane, until his death.
He is survived by his wife, Mary C. (Giammatteo) Verri; three sons,
Ron and his wife Carol, Robert and his wife Kathleen, and Richard
and his wife Saundra; seven grandchildren, Christine Higgins,
Jennifer Verri, Lauren Thomas, Michael Verri, Matthew Verri, Joseph
Verri, Vanessa Minteer; and five great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his siblings, Giannina Scittarelli,
Alfred Verrecchia, Alfeo Verrecchia and Reno Verrecchia.
A mass will take place at noon on Thursday at St. Mary Church in
Cranston, R. I. Burial will follow at St. Ann Cemetery in Cranston.
Contributions may be made to the Verri Scholarship Fund, Rhode
Island School of Design, 2 College St., Providence, RI, 02903.
Online condolences may be submitted at WoodlawnGattone.com