ETCHED IN STONE

Times may change but as Bul­gari’s new ex­hi­bi­tion proves, the al­lure of the world’s finest jew­els en­dures.

VOGUE Australia - - News - By Alice Bir­rell.

Times may change but as Bul­gari’s new ex­hi­bi­tion proves, the al­lure of the world’s finest jew­els en­dures.

Pre­cious an­tique jewellery, love-worn, cared for and treasured isn’t any­thing new. It doesn’t sig­nal an ex­cit­ing new tremor in fash­ion or a seis­mic shift, and it won’t have In­sta­gram in­flu­encers hyp­ing its ar­rival in Australia. But for an archivist en­meshed in 132 years of his­tory, new dis­cov­er­ies are not only a re­sult of putting to­gether an ex­hi­bi­tion span­ning more than 80 years, but also a stir­ring and serendip­i­tous jour­ney. “There are al­ways sur­prises in this job,” ex­plains Bul­gari’s brand and her­itage cu­ra­tor Lu­cia Boscaini, who cites as an ex­am­ple a rare Bul­gari tiara the house had pre­sumed lost.

“We knew that a cou­ple of very im­por­tant ear­rings of El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor’s were pur­chased at a Christie’s auc­tion by a mu­seum in Doha, so for this ex­hi­bi­tion we ap­proached them. We dis­cov­ered that decades ago they ac­quired a very rare and pre­cious Bul­gari tiara dated 1925 to 1930,” she says. “We had only heard of this tiara in plat­inum and di­a­monds. We didn’t have any idea it would still be around, let alone that it was in a mu­seum.”

The in­tri­cate piece will make its dis­play de­but in Australia, never be­fore seen along­side the 80-plus-piece col­lec­tion that opens at the Na­tional Gallery of Vic­to­ria in Mel­bourne on Septem­ber 30. Ital­ian Jew­els Bul­gari Style will al­low au­di­ences a likely never-to-be-re­peated look at the jeweller’s rich and metic­u­lously pre­served ar­chives – in part be­cause sourc­ing some of the price­less pieces means syn­the­sis­ing loans from myr­iad pri­vate col­lec­tions and mu­se­ums world­wide and, if needs must, re­turn­ing them promptly af­ter­ward to their right­ful homes.

Be­ing able to do this, Boscaini says, re­quires skills akin to a de­tec­tive. “I al­ways feel like the Sher­lock Holmes of an­tique jewellery,” she says laugh­ing. For Bul­gari, this in­cludes doc­u­ment­ing as many pur­chases as pos­si­ble, lean­ing on per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with clients built through gen­er­a­tions, stalk­ing the sales cat­a­logues of pres­ti­gious auc­tion houses lest a rare p piece shows up, and us­ing cus­tomer ser­vice. “If some­one has ana old jewel that needs to be fixed or needs to be pol­ished, and

they come to our store in north Lon­don, it could high­light an im­por­tant an­tique jewel.”

Be­yond the jew­els them­selves, Boscaini hopes the ex­hi­bi­tion will also re­veal the ro­mance of the per­sonal minu­tiae run­ning through the house’s his­tory. The multi­bil­lion dol­lar com­pany – bought in 2011 by LVMH for US$6 bil­lion – was built on Ital­ian am­i­cizia; friend­ship. The descen­dants of founder Sotirios Voul­garis (Ital­ianised to “Bul­gari” after mov­ing to Rome from Greece in 1881), Gianni, Ni­cola and Paolo Bul­gari, es­tab­lished a level of ser­vice that blurred the line be­tween friend and shop owner and set an ad­mirable bench­mark in the 1950s and 60s.

Tay­lor, along with leg­endary ac­tresses like Anita Ek­berg, In­grid Bergman, Au­drey Hep­burn and Gina Lol­lo­b­rigida, fre­quented the brand’s Via dei Con­dotti store in down time be­tween film­ing at the famed Cinecittà stu­dios with iconic di­rec­tors like Fed­erico Fellini and Michelan­gelo An­to­nioni.

As a re­sult, many Bul­gari pieces – be they bought by paramours or pur­chased on an ac­tress’s salary – wound up on screen. Tay­lor wore Bul­gari in The V.I.P.s, Boom! and Ash Wed­nes­day, among oth­ers, and fa­mously on the set of Cleopa­tra. Ac­tresses show­cased their new pur­chase in a way that isn’t seen much to­day due to the roles of Hol­ly­wood stylists and cos­tume de­sign­ers. Wit­tingly or not, those ac­tresses im­mor­talised love af­fairs, scan­dals and the spoils of be­ing A-list on screen.

The Bul­gari sig­na­ture – un­ham­pered cre­ativ­ity, a flair for colour and hunger for in­no­va­tion – was forged in par­al­lel with the hot­bed of cre­ativ­ity that was Cinecittà in the ex­u­ber­ant post-war years. To ex­am­ine these pieces up close is to take in first-hand a multi-faceted piece of his­tory. There are the trem­blant brooches, so-called be­cause of the com­plex springs that house the di­a­monds, al­low­ing them to quiver pret­tily; the mon­ete, ro­bust gold chains in­laid with an­cient coins as ho­mage to Roman roots; and deca­dently coloured parures – a set de­signed to be worn to­gether – like the rasp­berry and blue cabo­chons of ru­bies and sap­phires clus­tered on a weighty neck­lace dated 1967, then worn by Keira Knight­ley at the 2006 Academy Awards.

That fas­ci­na­tion with celebri­ties and the way they chose to ac­cou­tre their lives en­dures, and is some­thing Boscaini and the NGV cu­ra­tors un­der­stand. Via pho­to­graphs, film and the pieces them­selves, Ital­ian Jew­els re­minds us that those twin­kling orbs on stars, who are so of­ten bro­ken down by so­cial me­dia, re­store a cer­tain old-world mys­tery to their de­meanour, even if just for a brief mo­ment. Boscaini hopes at­ten­dees will dis­cover this. “It is writ­ten in the word, be­cause in Ital­ian gioelli is jewellery and hap­pi­ness is gioia – joy, so hap­pi­ness is the root for jew­els. That’s what I be­lieve has to be the mea­sure­ment of achieve­ment that we get through this ex­hi­bi­tion; that peo­ple will feel joy­ful.” Faced with jew­els of im­mea­sur­able value, it would be im­pos­si­ble not to. Ital­ian Jew­els Bul­gari Style, Septem­ber 30 to Jan­uary 29, 2017, at the Na­tional Gallery Vic­to­ria. Visit www.ngv.vic.gov.au.

SER­VICE THAT BLURRED THE LINE BE­TWEEN FRIEND AND SHOP OWNER

BUL­GARI HER­ITAGE COL­LEC­TION TUBOGAS GOLD CHOKER, 1980. BUL­GARI HER­ITAGE COL­LEC­TION GOLD SAUTOIR SET WITH YEL­LOW AND BLUE SAP­PHIRES, AGATE, CITRINES AND DI­A­MONDS. BUL­GARI GOLD SNAKE BRACELET AND WATCH, 1965, WITH DIAMONDSET EYES. BUL­GARI HER­ITAGE COL­LEC­TION GOLD NECK­LACE, 1967, SET WITH RU­BIES, SAP­PHIRES, EMER­ALDS AND 22.5 CARATS OF DI­A­MONDS. Sophia Loren Keira Knight­ley wear­ing vin­tage Bul­gari (and below) at the 2006 Academy Awards. BUL­GARI HER­ITAGE COL­LEC­TION GOLD PEN­DANT EAR­RINGS, 1967, SET WITH RU­BIES, EMER­ALDS, SAP­PHIRES AND 7.5 CARATS OF DI­A­MONDS. BUL­GARI GOLD MELONE EVENING BAG, 1980, SET WITH SAP­PHIRE THUMBPIECE.

BUL­GARI GOLD BRACELET, 1960, SET WITH SAP­PHIRE SAND DI­A­MONDS. BUL­GARI GOLD NECK­LACE, 1973, WITH GOLD COINS DAT­ING FROM THE 16TH CEN­TURY. WORN BY ANNE HATH­AWAY ON THE RED CAR­PET. BUL­GARI GOLD NECK­LACE, 1975, SET WITH ROMAN IM­PE­RIAL CORNELIAN, NIC­COLO, JASPER AND SARDONYX INTAGLIOS. El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor in 1967 wear­ing the Bul­gari Grand Duchess Vladimir Suite emer­ald and di­a­mond neck­lace. BUL­GARI PLAT­INUM TREM­BLANT BROOCH, 1958, SET WITH 46.5 CARATS OF DI­A­MONDS. ABOVE: BUL­GARI HER­ITAGE COL­LEC­TION GOLD FLOWER BROOCH, 1945, SET WITH SAP­PHIRES, RU­BIES AND DI­A­MONDS.

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