Of contemporary cuts and colours
The Greek muses alight on Indian shores as Bvlgari opens its doors to India. On a sombre afternoon in a plush mall, the newly opened store is awash in sunlight as it bounces off the carpet size cut-glass chandelier. The pristine whiteness is a perfect setting to candy hued baubles that have become a signature of the line and holding court amongst all this is Lucia Silvestri, Creative Director.
Celebrating 130 years in 2014, Bvlgari goes back to its Greco-Roman roots with the MVSA collection paying homage to the Muses – daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddesses of the art forms. From the blue of the Aegean Sea to the Indian vermillion, the maison has a penchant for using colour in ingenious ways. Rescuing ornaments from the sobriety of dulled gold and muted silver, going boldly where none dare to, Silvestri explains, “Colour comes from our roots, it’s the Roman tradition. We maintain this tradition but we make it contemporary.”
The likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida have been ecstatic ambassadors of the brand. Stressing the need to celebrate those who created the mythology of Bvlgari, Silvestri recalls with nostalgia, “They used to wear jewellery with glamour.” These are statement pieces that need to be carried off with aplomb and can easily overwhelm the person wearing it. She still recalls an unassuming woman, small and confident, androgynous in a suit and tie with an iconic Bvlgari bracelet and is reassured. The pieces find its people.
While most haute joaillerie tends to go the cliché delicate and pristine way, Bvlgari is one of the few that doesn’t shy away from opulent-sized gemstones. But the size is not an impediment. “It’s not just a big stone, the design makes it contemporary,” Silvestri explains. The construction and the cut help the stone sit comfortably on the skin. She is a purist in the sense she advocates coming in to the store, touching and holding the stone before buying it – as an experience that cannot be replicated. “One of the first things Mr Bvlgari taught me was to close the eyes and touch the stone. If it feels good, especially with diamonds, you can feel the cut.” The cabochon and the pebble are some of the usual stone-cuts one gets to see. The innovative new cut that is the talk of this collection is the takhti inspired from the Mughal tradition and has a story to boot.
Three years before the collection, an innocuous phone call from a supplier raving about huge cylinders of emeralds had drawn Silvestri from Rome to Jaipur. It proved to be too big a stone, ‘too ethnic’ she says and she had suggested cutting the stone in half. The supplier called her crazy and the matter ended there, or so it seemed then. After eight months, she saw the same supplier in an office in New York, with the stones cut in half. Calling her head office in disbelief, unable to describe or send an image, she took the spot decision of buying it. And it was a gamble that paid off, she informs me, beaming. “Mr Paolo (Bvlgari) personally made the sketch for the bracelet.” The fact that the bracelet sold immediately and another ring and necklace were made following the same layout made the takhti cut synonymous with the collection.
As women spend more time in the workplace, the focus is shifting towards daily, wearable trinkets. Silvestri emphasises, “I used to come to office without jewellery but I’d wear some in business meetings, a necklace of two million dollars or a tiara. For me wearing jewels is so natural – women should be comfortable in them.” She adds that one must wear ‘important’ jewels. Important in value, something with a history, maybe as an heirloom; an emotional connection or even just something that boosts your confidence.
With comfort also come her individual quirks. An extension of the brand ethic, all put together and still flaunting mismatched earrings she advocates using jewellery to express your creativity. Breaking the glass ceiling in Japan, encouraged by the some of the most traditional women there, she is overjoyed at them wanting to try mismatched earrings.
Singing while designing (Kesha’s Don’t Stop, she reveals on insistence) her own muses are memories of her mother wearing pearls and earrings, few jewels – elegant and simple. She holds femininity as the paramount value and trusts that the stones in her hand will show her the way.