if you’re used to the vagaries of the fashion industry, where things change at breakneck speed and it’s not unusual for brands to release six to eight collections a year, it’s quite refreshing to look at the world of high jewellery, a rarefied realm of the luxury sector that still adheres to the principle that creating truly one-of-a-kind pieces takes time. You never use the word “trend” when talking about high-jewellery creations, which are not mere products but collectibles meant for posterity.
It is indeed quite common for jewellers to go back to their roots and rework their signature collections from time to time. They may add a tweak here and there but their core pieces are what their loyal clients want to collect, aware that they will always stand the test of time.
If there’s an icon in the rich visual lexicon of Roman jeweller Bulgari, it would have to be its Serpenti line, which began in the ’40s as an homage to the maison’s Italian and Greek origins, and through the decades has become an emblem of the brand.
Earlier this year, Bulgari unveiled SerpentiForm, an exhibition in Rome’s Palazzo Braschi, which focused on the way snakes have inspired artists over the centuries and featured works of art and costumes alongside Bulgari jewels. The Serpenti motif is also a pillar of Bulgari’s latest high-jewellery collection, which the house presented to a select circle of clients and VIPs in the South of France at the end of May.
Instead of coming up with an overarching theme like last year’s Giardini Italiani, which evoked the harmonious elegance of Renaissance gardens, the house’s creative director Lucia Silvestri decided to emphasise three key aspects of Bulgari’s DNA: Italian Extravagance, which harks back to the glamour of la dolce vita; Mediterranean Eden, a celebration of Italy’s azure waters from the Riviera to Capri; and Roman Heritage, a nod to Bulgari’s hometown and its close link with the city’s ancient past. While these varied inspirations offered endless possibilities to Silvestri and her team, a constant was the Serpenti pattern, which for the first time Silvestri reimagined in different shapes and forms, updating it for the 21st century.
“We wanted to change Serpenti,” explains Silvestri on the day the collection was revealed at the Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat. “It’s such a success for us and we wanted to take risks and change things. We emphasised the head of the snake and its skin, creating a necklace that’s more statement. That’s why we called it Serpenti Seduttori, because it captures your eyes. While in a classic Serpenti necklace the beauty is evenly distributed in the entire piece, we focused on the head. We even came up with a campaign named Eyes on Me, because it’s the eyes of the snake that seduce. We also worked on the skin because snakeskin is like a fabric, with its colours and textures. Based on the skin, we created a hexagonal pattern and applied different colours. Serpenti is an iconic collection. It belongs to us and we don’t want to lose it. It’s a signature of Bulgari.”
Among the new iterations of the Serpenti jewels, a set of so-called Serpenti Scaglie (scales) depicts the creature as an almost abstract form, focusing on the geometry of its skin and its linear forms while forgoing the sinuous shapes of the original creations. “The idea of the snake was the basis, but we also wanted to appeal to women who don’t necessarily want to identify with a snake but with Bulgari and our aesthetic,” explains Silvestri as she surveys her creations. “It’s true that it’s a snake but a client may not even see it as such since it looks quite abstract, so she may just like its design. Not every woman is ready to wear a Serpenti necklace; it’s a snake but it’s not.”
Bulgari’s focus on a modernised signature is a perfect example of the need for jewellery houses to innovate and come up with new designs without, however, forgetting about their core strengths. After all, when it comes to an icon such as Serpenti, whether you’re inheriting a hand-me-down from your mother’s jewellery box, getting your hands on a piece from the ’60s at an auction sale of stunners once owned by a star like Elizabeth Taylor, or buying one of the new pieces with their stylised forms, you know that it’s a
timeless and inimitable design that will outlast any fad and will always dazzle both its wearers and its many admirers.
PHOTOGRAPHY MARCO RUSSO
HAIR AND MAKE-UP GIOVANNA FUCCIOLO
STYLING ASSISTANT ELEONORA BOTTA
MODEL DARIA KONONENKO