Bulgari jewellery historian Amanda Triossi talks to Denyse Yeo about the importance of heritage and her hunt for vintage jewels around the world.
Bulgari jewellery historian Amanda Triossi is a guardian of the brand’s heritage
Bulgari’s archivist, historian and curator since 1997, Triossi has helped the Italian luxury jeweller build the Bulgari Heritage Collection by buying vintage pieces at auction. She was in town recently for a retrospective collection of Elizabeth Taylor’s Bulgari collection, so we asked her to share her thoughts about jewels and her work:
Elizabeth Taylor is one of the greatest icons of the 20th century. She combines a lot of appealing factors – beauty, glamour, success, and a bit of love and sex. She was particularly passionate about Bulgari. Her collection of jewels was massive. She once wrote that one of the greatest assets of filming Cleopatra was not because she signed the first million-dollar contract, but because the movie was filming in Rome and she was close to Bulgari.
The love of her life Richard Burton gave her lot of the significant Bulgari pieces. She wore her famous emerald necklace throughout her life, so it shows a continuity of attachment towards these particular jewels. But my favourite is a sapphire and diamond necklace, bought by Burton for her 40th birthday in 1972, with a 52.72-carat Burmese sapphire.
It sounds a bit blase but I trained as an auctioneer and took sales, so that atmosphere at auctions does not intimidate me. At auction, you’ve got split seconds to figure things out. It’s not like buying in a shop, and saying I want that and that, or I’m getting five pieces, so what discount could you give me.
How do I select the best pieces? Fine vintage Bulgari pieces do not come on the market that often, so one has to be selective. Jewels generally come on the market for the three Ds – death, disease and divorce. I don’t think the three Ds have affected a lot of Bulgari collectors, so there are not many Bulgari pieces on the market. I want the classic representative Bulgari pieces, not the quirky ones.
Lots of tales surround these jewels – so many stories. There’s one necklace that I really want to get, but I have no idea where it is. It’s Egyptian in style and dates from 1972, which was when the treasure of Tutankhamun first exhibited at the British Museum. It’s very Bulgari – it’s got the cabochon, the colour, the coral, and it’s an amazing piece. I’ve only seen a photograph, and I’d be so excited if I came across it.
My love affair with jewellery goes back a long way. When I was four, I saw photographs of the coronation of the Shah of Iran, with the crown and throne. And I was born a block from Bulgari’s shop in Rome, near the Spanish Steps. I remember going to Bulgari with my grandfather; he had no one to give jewellery to because my mother and grandmother didn’t like jewels.
A company can only turn to its past when it’s mature. You have to reach a substantial level of maturity and solidity before being able to look back and invest in preserving what has been done. This came with Bulgari at the end of the 1990s. Bulgari only had one shop, in Rome, till 1972, and five shops by the end of the 1970s, until a major expansion in the 1990s. So it was a question of gathering all the information about this diversification. Hopefully, we have been able to structure and preserve the Bulgari archives for the future.
(Opposite) A heritage of fine jewellery (clockwise from top): Tremblant brooch in platinum with emeralds and diamonds (1960); “Snake” bracelet-watch in gold with polychrome enamel and emeralds (1967); Trombino ring in platinum with sapphire and diamonds (1971); necklace in platinum with emeralds and diamonds (1961); sautoir in gold with Byzantine gold coins and diamonds (1975)