Rocky Casale wrote this amazing piece for the New York Times Style Magazine and we reposted it below. We also dug into our picture files for you and pulled some of our favorite shots of the past featuring Bulgari pieces. It's hard not to go through the photos and drool on your keyboard. You have been warned!
Rocky Casale for the New York Times - Since opening on Rome’s Via Sistina in 1884, Bulgari has assembled a luxury portfolio that includes watches, accessories, perfumes, skin care and even hotels. Still, bold, colorful jewelry has remained the central force behind the brand’s success. At Bulgari’s Rome headquarters, on a shaded stretch along the Tiber River near Richard Meier’s Ara Pacis Museum, the company’s creative director, Lucia Silvestri, collaborates with teams of designers and Paolo Bulgari, the company chairman, to create one-of-a-kind and limited collections of rings, earrings, necklaces and bracelets. A single item can take up to two years to complete.
“Color is in Bulgari’s DNA,” Silvestri said. “We don’t care if orange isn’t in fashion this season. We focus on the character and quality of what we design and assemble, and most of that process begins in this room.” At the center of the room in question was a long table with a soft suede inlay, where Silvestri does most of her work. It is typically buried under pencil sketches and prints of potential necklace designs, which sit under twinkling confections made of some of the most precious materials in the world.
Silvestri spends weeks on the road looking for gems Bulgari can use. Her influence on suppliers is enormous. In 2010, she came across a 165-carat sapphire in Hong Kong. She told the supplier that it lacked spirit and wasn’t cut properly. Several months later, she found the same sapphire in Sri Lanka. The supplier had recut it according to her recommendations. Another time in Jaipur, in northern India, she was shown 25 walnut-size emeralds that she thought were too dark. She wanted them all cut in half to add lightness. The supplier was concerned that the delicate gems might splinter and lose value. A year later, she saw him again in New York on a separate matter. “Oh, I almost forgot to show you something,” he said, and presented her with the 25 Jaipur emeralds, now cut into perfect halves.
Silvestri, who prefers irregular or rounded gems, will spend months experimenting with color combinations and swapping jades for emeralds or amethysts for blueberry-size citrine gemstones, until she is happy with the tone, weight, length and design of each piece. She shares the building with a design team that weighs each stone and pairs it with the platinum, gold or silver link, clasp or claw that will allow the finished piece to drape well on the body. After approving the stone for quality, an on-site gemological team passes it and its metallic companion, along with a final design record, to Bulgari’s laboratory team.
The laboratory is an intentionally plain, well-hidden building off the busy Via Aurelia just outside of Rome. A team of 24 artists, including experts in metal setting and casting, work out how the weights and volumes of metals and gems should be balanced, so that each piece will capture light and move sinuously. The sound of files shaving down precious metals is constant, like the hum of cicadas in the summertime.
“If you said, ‘Make me a necklace with purple and yellow quartz, light emeralds, brilliant rubies and citron gems,’ some designers might tell you, ‘Yuck!’,” said Amanda Troissi, Bulgari’s jewelry historian. “But Bulgari knows how to work with colors, almost as if we were master painters.” The intricacies of that process are illuminated above, in this exclusive behind-the-scenes slide show.
Source: T Magazine