E A RTHLY DE­LIGHTS Bul­gari’s new high jew­ellery col­lec­tion takes its ar­chi­tec­tured curves from the ma­jes­tic gar­dens of Italy. Natasha Kraal strolls through these mag­nif­i­cent cre­ations of emer­alds and sap­phires up in the hills of Tus­cany.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - THE JEWELS -

In the sum­mer, Florence be­comes a glo­ri­ous ver­sion of it­self. The eter­nal sun­shine casts a liq­uid glow on the Arno river, crowned by the golden Ponte Vec­chio; glis­tens on Brunelleschi’s ter­ra­cotta-tiled dome on the Cathe­dral; and brings a phos­pho­rus gleam to the an­cient mar­ble stat­ues of Her­cules, Perseus, and those Medici Lions at Log­gia dei Lanzi. That golden patina im­bues a blithe, lost-in-time spirit to the Re­nais­sance city of art, history, and ar­chi­tec­ture, mak­ing ev­ery walk down a cob­ble­stone lane a ro­man­tic stroll. “On earth there is no heaven but there are pieces of it,” said philoso­pher Jules Re­nard, where Florence in the sun is pure par­adise. Lush greens turn an en­chant­ing shade of emer­ald in the morn­ing light, where the Re­nais­sance gar­dens of Florence take centrestage this sum­mer. These mag­nif­i­cent sanc­tu­ar­ies date back to the Medici fam­ily that ruled Florence in the 15th and 16th Cen­tury, who com­mis­sioned ar­chi­tects, pain­ters, and sculp­tors to trans­form these gar­dens of palaces and vil­las into grand art­works of na­ture. Crafted with the same pas­sion as the painted mas­ter­pieces of that time, these large-scale spa­ces of geo­met­ric hedgerows and flowerbeds, foun­tains and grot­tos, are grand art­works in them­selves. Bul­gari brings this poetic plant cul­ture to over 100 pieces of one-of-a-kind high jew­ellery for its new ‘Ital­ian Gar­dens’ col­lec­tion.

Sit­ting in the op­u­lent break­fast room of the Four Sea­sons Firenze, for­merly the his­tor­i­cal Palazzo della Gher­ardesca, over­look­ing the breath­tak­ing 11-acre gar­dens of the re­sort that not only show­cases re­mark­able trees from the Taxus Bac­cata, the long­est liv­ing ever­green plant, to the Thuja tree of life but also con­tem­po­rary art sculp­tures, stat­ues, foun­tains, and a small Ionic tem­ple, Jean-Christophe Babin talks about his latest métier with such literary pas­sion. “It’s al­ways dif­fer­ent,” shares the CEO of the Ital­ian lux­ury jew­eller, ice clink­ing in his Per­rier. “Each year, we try to bring alive new ideas in jew­ellery and ex­press the Bul­gari style, which means a lot of bold and colour­ful com­bi­na­tions. The ex­cite­ment of the brand, the in­spi­ra­tion, the unique­ness is very much re­lated to our Ro­man ori­gins, and to our Ital­ian sur­round­ings.

“This year we started with our colour­ful DNA and dar­ing­ness,” he con­tin­ues in­tently. “But in­stead of tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from mon­u­ments or in­ter­nal dec­o­ra­tions, we’ve gone to the Ri­nasci­mento pe­riod, a time of to­tal revo­lu­tion in arts and ar­chi­tec­ture in Italy. This is prob­a­bly the firstever Bul­gari jew­ellery col­lec­tion inspired by Mother Na­ture, re­shaped and rethought by the great­est artists of the 16th cen­tury.”

This highly idio­syn­cratic and ex­pres­sively de­tailed tour de force of a high jew­ellery col­lec­tion be­gins, as it al­ways does, with fan­tas­ti­cal stones. “Jewels in the gar­den” as cre­ative di­rec­tor Lu­cia Sil­vestri calls them. “I feel like a gar­dener be­cause I search the seeds – the buy­ing of the gems – and fol­low their process as they grow into in­cred­i­ble jew­ellery.”

The stones are as im­por­tant as the de­sign; craft­ing, of course, is the finest. Cue four fancy-cut emer­alds from Zam­bia – 143.1 carats of in­ten­sity, cut from a 400-carat raw stone – and ex­tra­or­di­nary sap­phires rang­ing from a sin­gle 125.35 carat from Sri Lanka to a set of seven equal stones to­tal­ing some 190 carats, sourced the world over to make ‘Blue Iri­des­cence’.

This sap­phire-and-spinel mas­ter­piece is Sil­vestri’s “happy neck­lace” – as she chris­tens her favourite piece from ev­ery new col­lec­tion – inspired by the festoons found in the caves of the Do­mus Aurea, the por­tico villa built by the Em­peror Nero in first cen­tury an­cient Rome, and re­stored by mae­stros such as Raphael in the 16th cen­tury. “This is not only a happy neck­lace, it’s also very pre­cious and rare,” she says, toy­ing with an Al­le­gra pen­dant around her neck. “We started to col­lect the sap­phires three years ago, from ev­ery­where, and when we had seven gems, it was time to make a neck­lace. The first thought was to make a clas­si­cal neck­lace in blue and white but Mr. Bul­gari de­cided to do some­thing crazy with pink spinels and rose gold that with blue makes it fem­i­nine, con­tem­po­rary, and re­ally in Bul­gari style. It’s a magic piece.”

This nat­u­ral flam­boy­ance, fash­ioned for the villa lifestyle and gar­den balls, ex­pands into star­tlingly di­verse pieces of jew­ellery that take their lines and forms from the rig­or­ously sculp­tured grounds and pro­fusely flow­er­ing rus­tic set­tings of some of the 72 listed Grandi Giar­dini Ital­iani, in­clud­ing

‘ Se­cret Gar­den’ in amethyst, rube­lite, cit­rine, and aqua­marines

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