RETURN of the DIVA
Bulgari launches a high jewellery dream, inspired by the women who wore it. Natasha Kraal previews the collection in Paris.
The gems had just arrived from Portofino. Dramatic drops of rubellites, peridot, amethysts, and mandarin garnets all set to dazzle on sunkissed skin. Sapphires and emeralds as deep and as rich as the seven seas sparkled before us. Iridescent mother-of-pearl was carved into charming flowers; and there were diamonds, serious diamonds. Days before they had all been in the ancient gardens of the Cervara Abbey amid the lush topiary, pergolas, and the scent of Mediterranean jasmine, where 50 of the world’s most important jewellery clients previewed Bulgari’s new high jewellery collection, along with the requisite Hollywood stars.
Premiering a one-of-a-kind fan-shaped necklace featuring diamond-studded beads of precious stones cast in pink gold and pavé diamonds that midsummer’s night was Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, former first lady of France, musician, muse, and now face of the Diva collection. The choice was unexpected yet acclaimed; as was Terry Richardson, the photographer provocateur known for his audacious style and shocking offcamera antics, who has captured the lively insouciance of Bruni-Sarkozy in the global campaign. Diana Ross, the other diva of the night, serenaded all with her brand of soul, as ‘Elizabeth Taylor’, ‘Ava Gardner’, and ‘Sophia Loren’ modelled one-of-a-kind pieces inspired by those very movie icons of the ’50s and ’60s who famously wore Bulgari jewellery on and off the big screen.
All that sun, sea, and celebrity cast such a sensual patina on the jewellery that by the time they arrived at Bulgari’s Avenue George V boutique in Paris, they practically oozed la dolce vita. This was a summer’s day in July, during haute couture week, the perfect setting for haute joaillerie, both being decorative displays of exquisite details and ingenious techniques that raise craftsmanship to art. Like couture today, there was a fresher outline to the impressive repertoire on display – a stand-out piece of which was a modern-day maharani’s bracelet of six magnificent takhti emeralds encircled by rubies and diamonds in a 240-carat creation – and a bohemian denouement waiting to be delivered.
“My favourite is this happy necklace,” exclaimed Lucia Silvestri, the creative director of jewellery for Bulgari, cradling the exuberant necklace formed with a cascade of rubellite droplets, pearshaped peridot, and mother-of-pearl flowers accentuated with diamonds. Its fabulousness also comes from its vivacity. “When you wear the necklace, believe me, you’ll feel happier because the colours are so strong, determined, and happy.”
And yet, “Nobody wanted to make that necklace, only Mr. Paolo, Mr. [Nicola] Bulgari, and me,” said the spritely lady who has worked for more than 30 years with the founder’s grandsons, now the chairman and vice chairman respectively, of the luxury jewellers. “I prepared the stones on the table with all the colours and Mr. Paolo thought it was beautiful, but the house designers thought it was all too much. Mr. Bulgari said to go ahead and make it; to add only a bit of diamonds and ‘let the stones do the talking.’”
Bulgari has for decades been about big, bright gems, although it was first founded in 1884 as a silver emporium by Sotirios Voulgaris, a Greek silversmith who Italianised his name upon establishing the business in Rome. Only in 1915 did the company venture into jewellery, and by the Fifties it had become world-renowned for its Romanesque architectural designs and signature coloured precious stones.
Terry Richardson and Carla Bruni- Sarkozy in Portofino High Jewellery Diva earrings in sapphires and diamonds, Bulgari
High Jewellery Diva bracelet in white gold with emeralds, rubies, and diamonds, Bulgari