Lucia Silvestri, Bulgari’s Jewellery Creation and Gem Buying Director, is sitting next to me at the gala dinner for a press preview of Festa, the new feast of haute joaillerie delights from the Roman jeweller. Amid laughter and a delectable dinner menu designed by Resident Head Chef Fabrizio Crocetta at Il Ristorante Luca Fantin of Bulgari Resort, Bali, Silvestri and Giampaolo Della Croce, the brand’s High Jewellery Director, are regaling us with how the best gems are selected for Bulgari’s myriad themes. Silvestri smiles when Della Croce relates how she is a fierce negotiator, even when presented with the most exquisite of gems. “Lucia is the one who is very determined but never shows it,” says Della Croce. “I’m the one who can’t hide (my excitement)!”
The passion for jewellery is unmistakable and the Roman house, famous for its brilliant use of coloured gemstones in spectacular creations, sees the process of gem selection and buying as an essential one at Bulgari, determining the way the pieces are designed and, indeed, what theme the collections take on. This year’s new high jewellery collection sees a joyous celebration of all things Italian – an enchanting festa of principessas, childhood treats and rustic delights, with more than 100 jewels and haute horlogerie pieces imagined into an Italian art de vivre and recently presented in Venice, a city legendary for two festas – the Carnival and the Regatta Storica.
“Designing this collection has been an absolute joy,” says Silvestri. “It’s all about fun and choosing a theme like festa has allowed me a lot of creativity.”
Under the design direction of Silvestri and Della Croce, the creations capture the imagination with different aspects of la dolce vita. Principesse recalls the legendary Roman princesses of yore, famed for their wit, intelligence and beauty, with more than 30 jewels crafted in their honour. The Principessa Borghese, sister to one Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, for one, has a magnificent cabochon emerald ring and necklace set paid in her tribute. A 104 South Sea Akoya pearl sautoir set with a 26.10-carat cabochon emerald and a 41.98-carat bead emerald pays adoring tribute to Maria Mancini, the Principessa Colonna. Queen Margherita di Savoia is given homage in a necklace featuring a 59-carat cushion-cut Colombian emerald inspired by the legendary ballroom of her palace in Stupinigi.
With Infanzia, childhood is revisited with torta rings fashioned into colourful and delectable pistachio, lemon and raspberry cakes, reminiscent of summer and fun. Party favours, candies and balloons all lend to the festa – whether they be leccalecca (lollipops) created with yellow diamonds, emeralds and diamonds, or gelati in pink gold with buff-top rubies and diamonds, a spectacular palloncini necklace of pink gold with aquamarine, amethysts, emeralds, pink tourmalines, round diamonds and pavé-set diamonds.
Tradizione sees time-honoured Italian pursuits and traditions – olives, pepperoncini, palio races and tarantella dances – feted in stunning creations of semi-precious and precious gems, all carefully selected by Silvestri and Della Croce.
“Gems have an intrinsic beauty that if you don’t express to the best, you will kill them,” says Della Croce. “If you’re not there at the source, you never can tell. We stopped someone from cutting gems into pear shapes – ‘No, no, no! It’s beautiful (the way it is)’ – and now it’s a beautiful necklace in the shop. What you would have (then) seen were lovely pear-shaped emeralds but all the other jewellers can do this – we wanted to explore more and more. This is the reason why we keep a strong relationship with mine owners and gem dealers.”
That special relationship can only add to Bulgari’s exclusivity as a jeweller and places the brand on a very different level, thanks to symbiotic working relationships at every turn. “We are a team of people working with the same passion and consistent energy,” says Della Croce. “Lucia has been working for Bulgari for more than 30 years and I’ve been working there for close to 30. We have extensive discussions with Mr Bulgari every morning!”
If it were not for these daily meetings and fortified relationships, Bulgari would not have been the innovator it has always been. “Our creativity changes every time,” says Della Croce. “It’s very much a contemporary process. We were the first to play with unconventional materials like steel, porcelain and then ceramic, bronze and wood in the 1960s. We were ‘crazy’ enough to craft pieces like huge chains alternating gold and wood set with diamonds – and this isn’t just limited to materials. We have just been designing in a very different way.”