Bold And Beautiful
As Bulgari celebrates its 130th anniversary, Kenneth Goh discovers the romance of jewels that captured hearts across Hollywood.
Richard Burton once said, “I introduced ed Elizabeth [Taylor] to beer. She introduced d me to Bulgari.” Not a fair trade-off for some, but Burton’s affection for Taylor was only matched by her love of sparkle. “Elizabeth Taylor was as passionate about collecting husbands as she was in jewellery,” shared Amanda Triossi, Bulgari’s Historical Archives curator. “She he was also passionate about Bulgari. She said id one of the greatest assets of filming Cleopatra in Rome was the proximity to Bulgari.”
A screen legend, the late Taylor lived a gilded life, especially in the ’50s and ’60s when the making of films in Italy transformed Rome into ‘Hollywood on the Tiber’. “Rome was the third biggest movie centre after Hollywood and Bombay,” noted Sabina Belli, Bulgari’s brand and communications managing director. “That’s where the stars were spending long periods of time. And they all turned to Bulgari for jewellery to flaunt on the red carpet.”
Those stars would become international style ambassadors. “They were key in promoting the glamour of Italian fashion,” said curator Sonnet Stanfill of the V&A exhibition on “The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014,” on until July 27 in London. “The paparazzi shots, news reels, and fan magazines were fuelling an international appetite for the luxurious clothing made in Italy.”
Sadly, film stars today do not possess the same magnetism as Taylor, which explains why her jewels sold for a record-breaking USD157 million (RM503 million) at the Christie’s auction two years ag ago. Their mystique, beauty, and quality, in interwoven with love stories made them leg legends in their own right. When Jessica Chastain wore Taylor’s diamond-and-sapphire sautoir to Cannes last year, she revealed, “I didn’t want to know how much it was worth. It was so thrilling to wear it, but I was overwhelmed, too. I was the first person to wear it since Elizabeth, a and I felt as if I was able to s spend the day with her by wea wearing it.” Incidentally, it sold for USD6.1 million (RM20 million) at the auction.
For its 130th anniversary launch in Sydney, Bulgari revealed its most iconic pieces to a VIP guest list. The living room of a mansion residence Barford House, in the exclusive Bellevue Hills, was filled with precious gems in a cornucopia of shapes, forms, and intricate settings. The highlight was the “Four Seasons” – a quartet of necklaces with delicate motifs depicting spring, summer, autumn, and winter. With stones cut to resemble leaves, vines, and flowers, Mother Nature never looked so expensively precise. “Our signature is coloured stones, and putting unexpected stones together. But we try to be bold with diamonds. Our bestseller is the Serpenti – it makes a statement,” said JeanChristophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari, referring to the Ultimate Temptation: a metre-long coil of 70 fancy diamonds ending with a 12.16-carat solitaire, 60 carats in all.
The source of inspiration is clear. “In Rome, it doesn’t take much to be inspired,” Babin exclaims. “It’s monumental whatever the period. Ceilings are 10 metres high, there are paintings everywhere, sculptures, and museums. Rome is larger than life. And our jewellery reflects that.”
FROM TOP: The stunning Ultimate Temptation Serpenti necklace with 70 fancy diamonds, ending with a 12- carat solitaire; the beautiful hues of the Four Seasons drop earrings