Bulgari Celebrates 130 Years of Heritage
When approximately 250 jewels and timepieces fly out from Rome to set up temporary residence at a renowned Japanese temple of art and artefact, you know you’re in for a treat that’s going to set the bar sky-high. Bulgari’s celebration of 130 years in the business with an exhibition showcasing its one-of-a-kind heritage heirlooms did just that. The scale of presentation — featuring the first silver trinkets designed by founder Sotirio Bulgari, original sketches of jewel motifs, photographs and videos showcasing the who’s-who draped in Bulgari baubles — was understandably awe-inducing. The craftsmanship (viewed up-close) though, was the real star of the evening, explaining, in a glance, why Bulgari has consistently been at the forefront when it comes to originality, daring, expression and style.
Greek silversmith Sotirio introduced the first Bulgari store to the world in 1884, on Rome’s Via Sistina. The flagship outlet then moved to the luxe Via Condotti street, where the headquarters still stand. While future grand exhibitions are being organised in Madrid and Melbourne later this year, keen patrons, design students and general visitors can book appointments to view the permanent collection at the main store as well. After all, Andy Warhol did find the space akin to ‘the best exhibition of contemporary art’.
Greco-Roman classicism and the Italian Renaissance, two significant influences in Bulgari design, explain the art connect. The dynamism of yellow gold coupled with non-conforming volumes and shapes, design suffused with distinctive gems that provide depth and colour, a marked curiosity to experiment with various materials — these are the ingenious characteristics of the Bulgari brand, which are also synonymous with any rousing art form.
And when a jewel bursts into the foreground with such brilliance, it garners attention on a large playground as well. Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn — those timeless symbols of elegance — have all been loyalists of the brand; Hollywood seductress Elizabeth Taylor being the ultimate consumer. Her husband, the indulgent Richard Burton, once commented, ‘The only word Liz knows in Italian is Bulgari.’ She mastered the word to such perfection that the brand reacquired seven pieces from the Christie’s sale of her sizeable personal collection in 2011.
The heritage is as monumental as it is iconic. From the sinuous Serpenti snake shapes to Monete and its bold use of ancient coins in lieu of precious stones; from Bulgari Bulgari, a design that stemmed from a Christmas gift presented to the brand’s 100 top clients in 1975, and a demand for which has spurned a consistent production since; to Parentesi, an architectural marvel paying homage to Rome’s interlocked cobbled streets…collection after collection seeks to attain levels of audacious inventiveness.
Today, Lucia Silvestri sits at the helm as Bulgari’s creative director. Starting young, when the brand was only five stores old, she has grown with jewels blossoming in her studio, her knack for hue and cut increasingly getting refined to a point where she is often the last word on a precious stone’s potential. She readily admits that she ‘talks to the gems’. “I try to mix rare gems with the less rare. There’s never any compromise on creativity. Then I focus on femininity and versatility and, lastly, for the piece to be contemporary.”
With a philosophy such as the above, there can only be more heirlooms in store for the brand.
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