Gi­ampiero Bodino is re­turn­ing the art of high jew­ellery-mak­ing to its roots with his be­spoke cre­ations, dis­cov­ers Laura Rys­man

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Gi­ampiero Bodino is re­turn­ing the art of high jew­ellery-mak­ing to its roots

In the heart of Mi­lan, the Quadri­latero del Silen­zio (“the silent dis­trict”) is a gen­teel cor­ner of the city built by the early 20th cen­tury’s flour­ish­ing in­dus­tri­al­ists who con­structed some of Mi­lan’s most fas­ci­nat­ing ar­chi­tec­ture. Stand­ing amidst sev­eral other ar­chi­tec­tural mar­vels is the Villa Mozart, a palazzo dom­i­nated by si­enna-toned mar­ble, rich bois­erie de­tails, three-me­tre win­dows and an abid­ing sense of dis­tinc­tion. The grand fa­cade is com­pletely cloaked by vines, its green­ery in­ter­rupted ever so dis­creetly by a pe­tite en­graved plaque that marks the en­trance: Gi­ampiero Bodino. It is here in this mon­u­ment to Ital­ian re­fine­ment — and fit­tingly so — that we find the hero of our story.

Dap­per in a cream-coloured three­piece suit and a re­veal­ingly rene­gade pair of hoop ear­rings, Gi­ampiero Bodino — a sea­soned jew­ellery de­signer, as well as an ac­com­plished painter due for his sec­ond big ex­hibit in Mi­lan next year — leans back into the leather sofa of the Villa Mozart’s el­e­gant liv­ing room. Legs crossed, eyes twin­kling, his stack of gold rings clink to­gether as he waves his hands and de­clares: “This is how I want to re­ceive my guests.” It is also the only way he will re­ceive guests — jour­nal­ists, clients, or oth­er­wise. The lovely Villa Mozart is the head­quar­ters of the high jew­ellery house that bears Bodino’s name, a unique ven­ture with no store­fronts and no in­ter­na­tional pres­ence. In this ap­point­men­tonly Mi­lan sa­lon, the epony­mous jew­eller per­son­ally col­lab­o­rates with clients to cre­ate be­spoke jew­ellery for them.

“The new lux­ury is au­then­tic­ity,” says Bodino of his mod­ern-made, be­spoke high jew­ellery brand. “Jew­ellery is strongly linked to emotion — it con­tains mem­ory and sen­ti­ment. I’m ab­so­lutely op­posed to the idea that there should ever be two of the same piece.” Though his name is not widely known by the pub­lic, the 54-year-old can ex­pound on lux­ury bet­ter than most. Since 2002, he has been the art di­rec­tor of jew­ellery and watches at Richemont, the pow­er­ful

lux­ury con­glom­er­ate, where he has shaped the col­lec­tions of com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Cartier, Van Cleef & Ar­pels, Piaget, JaegerLe­coul­tre, Baume & Mercier, Mont­blanc and Pan­erai. His brand, which was founded in 2013, rep­re­sents the first time that Richemont, or any of the lux­ury groups such as Ker­ing or LVMH, has cre­ated a jew­ellery brand from scratch, as op­posed to buy­ing a brand “in its death throes”, as Bodino jests. “The won­der­ful part is that in­stead of ac­quir­ing an old his­tory, you’ve ac­quired a per­son who has a his­tory yet to be writ­ten.”

The his­tory of Gi­ampiero Bodino, as it lays out with this ex­tra­or­di­nary ven­ture, is sure to be an in­ter­est­ing tale. The brand first launched at the Bi­en­nale des An­ti­quaires in 2014, pre­sent­ing a beau­ti­fully capri­cious se­ries of Ital­ian-in­spired jew­els that showed the breadth of Bodino’s pos­si­bil­i­ties. “I think there’s al­ways space for dreams,” he mused on the oc­ca­sion. Th­ese dreams, from the one-ofa-kind jew­ellery to the be­spoke phi­los­o­phy of the Mai­son, are dic­tated by the de­signer him­self. “I’ve had carte blanche with this project,” he says.

His lat­est unique pieces, pre­sented dur­ing haute cou­ture in Paris, build on his pas­sion for Italy. “Ital­ians have to learn to see the beauty of our coun­try and recog­nise that it is ex­tra­or­di­nary,” he says. In this ser­vice, the de­signer has cre­ated flights of fancy that nod to the great aes­thetic ages of Italy’s past: A di­a­mond col­lar references the Byzan­tine mo­saics of Ravenna, a choker of Mal­tese crosses re­calls the medieval Corona Fer­rea that crowned the king of Italy for cen­turies, the Ca­te­rina neck­lace, named af­ter the Floren­tine no­ble­woman Cather­ine de Medici, pays homage to the rose win­dows of Gothic churches. “Italy is a con­tin­u­ous source of in­spi­ra­tion,” Bodino ex­plains. “You see an old car­pet, an old pat­tern on a wall, an iron­work de­tail, tiles, mar­ble work, a pro­por­tion even and you find in­spi­ra­tion.”

Italy, the cen­tre of so many artis­tic flow­er­ings, was also the birth­place of high jew­ellery, a craft per­fected by the Re­nais­sance guilds of gold­smiths for the great pow­ers of that era — the Sforzas, the de Medi­cis, the Popes — who re­quired highly valu­able and beau­ti­fully wrought jew­els to il­lus­trate their clout. Today, Italy is the world’s big­gest ex­porter of fine jew­ellery, but it has lost the art of haute joail­lerie, a metier now ceded to France. Bodino, who uses Richemont’s net­work of jew­ellers and work­shops to cre­ate his pieces in Paris, is nev­er­the­less de­ter­mined that his cre­ations will have its soul in Italy, restor­ing some­thing of the old his­tory and in­spir­ing some­thing new.

“I’m a lit­tle bit old-fash­ioned,” he ad­mits. He adds: “But I’m not afraid of that. The fu­ture comes from a con­tin­u­ous


process of un­cov­er­ing and re­dis­cov­er­ing the past.” Cus­tom jew­ellery is a re­turn to the ori­gins of lux­ury, a one-on-one style that has dis­ap­peared and that Bodino is re­defin­ing as con­tem­po­rary. Clients are wel­comed at the Villa Mozart to pe­ruse his de­signs, to chat and col­lab­o­rate on their own be­spoke jew­els, which Bodino be­gins to sketch for them as they talk about their pref­er­ences. In an era when “ex­pe­ri­en­tial” has be­come the watch­word of lux­ury, the most mod­ern of de­sires may be cre­at­ing a tai­lor-made jewel.

His own past has taken a for­tu­itous — if wind­ing — path. A stu­dent of ar­chi­tec­ture, the Turin-na­tive was de­sign­ing cars for Gi­u­giaro in the late 1970s when he met Gianni Bul­gari. The well-known bon vi­vant, who raced and col­lected cars, took an in­ter­est in Bodino’s work and sent him to a jew­ellery in­cu­ba­tor in Rome, a train­ing ground for de­sign­ers from be­yond the jew­ellery world. When Bul­gari left his fam­ily’s com­pany in 1985, so did Bodino. By then firmly com­mit­ted to jew­ellery, he started a free­lance de­sign busi­ness in Mi­lan and col­lab­o­rated in­de­pen­dently with some of the big­gest names in the in­dus­try, such as Tom Ford, Ver­sace, Gucci, Prada and oth­ers. His first step into Richemont took place dur­ing a chance en­counter while house-hunt­ing.

It led to a de­signer po­si­tion at Cartier, a re­spon­si­bil­ity that he bal­anced with his own busi­ness. He re­turned to Richemont 13 years ago to over­see its large port­fo­lio of brands. Now, with nearly 30 years of de­sign­ing jew­ellery for in­ter­na­tional brands un­der his belt, his career has led him to this very in­ti­mate project: The resurrection of the cus­tom jew­eller.

The tim­ing cer­tainly seems pre­scient. Be­spoke cre­ations are in­creas­ingly po­tent. The great jew­ellery houses of Paris’s Place Vendôme may have store­fronts all over the world, but you will only find Gi­ampiero Bodino in the mar­ble-lined sa­lons of the

Villa Mozart. Around him, ev­ery­thing is enor­mous: The mar­ble fire­place and pi­lasters, the out­sized crys­tal chan­de­liers hang­ing from fres­coed ceil­ings, the win­dows open­ing to the lush garden, his own mon­u­men­tal, sepia-toned paint­ings that hang on the wall. How­ever, the warmth and en­ergy that Bodino im­parts is ab­so­lutely hu­man in scale; the re­turn of this hu­man­ity to the cor­po­rate world of glob­alised lux­ury is what im­bues it with a new rel­e­vance.

Be­yond the sa­lon, a din­ing room has been trans­formed into a gallery of jew­els. Glass vit­rines sur­rounded by carved wood pan­elling dis­play some of Bodino’s ex­trav­a­gant, oneof-a-kind cre­ations. Each honours Italy’s past with a touch of tech­ni­cal moder­nity — gem­stones seem to float in three-di­men­sional bezels, gem­stone colours com­bine in bold pair­ings, in­vis­i­bly-set square di­a­monds cre­ate a back­ground of pure light. Griffins — mytho­log­i­cal sym­bols of power beloved by the An­cient Romans and the Re­nais­sance Floren­tines — flank the di­a­mond cen­tre of a spec­tac­u­lar neck­lace, ren­dered here by Bodino as com­pletely sup­ple and shim­mer­ing with all the glory of leg­end.

Clock­wise from bot­tom left: Pri­mav­era Theme Ring, the en­trance and foyer of Villa Mozart

Gi­ampiero Bodino

Chimera Theme Neck­lace

From left: The sketch of the Per­sonam Ring; Chimera Theme Ring

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