Alfred Albrizio, jeweler to the stars, dies at 66

Alfred Albrizio.
Alfred Albrizio.

BY ALBERT AMATEAU  |  Alfred Albrizio, jewelry designer and owner of C’est Magnifique jewelry shop on MacDougal St., died Feb. 2 in Orange County Hospital. He was 66.

He had lung disease that had been diagnosed as cancer in 2008, according to Catherine, his wife of 25 years.

Located for many years on MacDougal St., the shop’s clients include two generations of Villagers and celebrities including Madonna and Keith Richards.

The third-generation business, which was moved in 2012 to 328 E. Ninth St., will carry on under his son and partner, Alfred III, known as Alfie, a jewelry designer and craftsman in his own right.

Founded in 1959 by Alfred’s uncle and aunt, Alfonso (known as Funzy) and Josephine Albrizio, C’est Magnifique became renowned for custom-designed, tribal Southwest and vintage jewelry.

Alfred joined his uncle and aunt in the tiny shop at 120 MacDougal St. in the early 1980s after a varied career that included a sojourn in Los Angeles and work as a welder on the sailing ship Peking at the South St. Seaport.

The jewelry that Madonna wore in the movie “Desperately Seeking Susan” came from the little shop on MacDougal St. Prince and Johnny Depp bought unique items there.

In addition to crafting his own designs, Alfred made trips to Arizona and New Mexico to buy jewelry from Native American craftsmen. With his wife, he bought a home in Tucson, Arizona, in 1999.

“We were going to retire there,” Catherine said.

Alfred told a New York Times reporter a few years ago that Uncle Funzy had been a friend and mentor, who taught him the trade as an apprentice in the 1980s. His own father died when he was only 13.

But tragedy struck on the morning of Aug. 29, 1994, when a crack addict and convicted felon, Edward Schnittker, stabbed Funzy to death in the shop.

Nevertheless, Alfred, joined by his 19-year-old son, Alfred III, took over and the shop prospered.

“They did beautiful work,” said LindaAnn Loschiavo, a Village resident and longtime patron of the shop on MacDougal St. and at its newer E. Ninth St. location. “I went there to have my jewelry repaired but I really went to talk to Al [Alfred]. He had lots of stories and a 100-watt personality,” Loschiavo said.

Conrad Bradford, a commercial real estate broker and friend, found the new E. Ninth St. location for C’est Magnifique.

“The MacDougal St. shop was tiny,” Bradford recalled. “It didn’t even have a bathroom and that became more important when Alfred became ill. The rent was going up and time was running out,” Bradford said.

“The Village was impossible, but we were able to find a new larger location nearby with a basement and two bathrooms,” Bradford said.

Alfred Albrizio was born in the Bronx to Alfred and Rita Sevino Albrizio. The family, including Alfred Jr. and four sisters, moved to Manhattan. In the 1960s, Alfred Jr. found a job on Wall St. with the then-brokerage firm E.F. Hutton & Co. but left for California around 1970 and settled in Los Angeles.

“He had the gift of gab and was able to make everyone laugh,” his son said. “But he mostly sowed his wild oats in California.”

He returned to New York around 1975 and learned welding.

“He walked onto a job site and the boss asked him if he knew how to weld,” his son recounted. “He said, yes. So the boss set him up and told him to do a job, but he could see right away that he had never done it before. But he had taken a liking to my father and showed him how,” his son said.

Alfred’s marriage to Denise D’Aiuto ended in divorce in 1978. He married Catherine Biaggi in 1988 after he joined his uncle and aunt at C’est Magnifique.

In addition to his wife and their son, Christopher, and his son, Alfred III, four sisters, Patricia Gambelunghi, Vickie Paladino, Angela Lazos and Joanne Simon, also survive.

Perazzo Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements. The funeral was Feb. 6 and the Mass was at Our Lady of Pompeii Church on Feb. 7.