There may be 9,100km and a 14-hour flight time between Rome and Krabi, the province in south-western Thailand, known for its sheer limestone karsts and idyllic offshore islands, yet, for one weekend, the latter could not have been a more fitting spot to celebrate the artistry of the Eternal City. For in the absence of the Spanish Steps, Colosseum and Caracalla Baths, there was the glistening blue skies and azure waters of the Andaman Sea to stand in for the vitality and beauty of the Mediterranean coast.
It was at the sun-drenched yet rain-cooled Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, that Roman jeweller Bulgari sent regional press to jewellery school (or rather, scuola) and played host to more than 40 VIP clients, who had flown in for a showcase of its 2016 high jewellery collection, The Magnificent Inspirations. With a model showcase, pool party and spa treatment woven into the programme, it was as much a weekend designed for guests to soak in the serenity of the gracious all-villa, sea-fronting property, as it was a grand showcase of the charismatic Bulgari spirit — one that literally sparkles as much as the creativity of Ancient Rome.
The resort’s resident elephant calf Coco even made a guest appearance at a pool-side barbecue for VIPs, including the likes of Singapore’s own Dana and Darren Cheong, Rany and Colin Moran, and Lam Tze Tze. And it was music by DJ Benz that wrapped up festivities on a high.
One might say it was a well-balanced measure of theatrics — much like the Bulgari aesthetic. Unapologetically bold, the house’s jewellery have a way of being daring and formal; elegant yet extravagant. As Carolyne Coquet, Bulgari’s high jewellery and haute horlogerie managing director explained to us: “There is no small dream in Rome and there is no small dream at Bulgari.”
Established in 1884, along Via Sistina by the Spanish Steps, the master of gemstones designs with the art and architecture of its homeland preoccupying its senses. With Coquet and the house’s Creative Director Lucia Silvestri, High Jewellery Senior Director Giampaolo Della Croce and High End Watches Director Andrea Granelli on hand to personally introduce guests to the three facets of inspiration behind the 2016 collection — daring Italian Extravaganza, romantic Mediterranean Eden and mythical Roman Heritage — it was as if all roads led to Rome, even in Phulay Bay. Literally.
Accessed by a wooden bridge and a path of stepping stones, the resort’s central pavilion was transformed overnight into a Bulgari showroom. There, surrounded by sun, sand and sea, the latest bejewelled pieces were displayed in all their glory.
There were the new iterations of the iconic Serpenti, necklaces realised this time with either ruby or emerald eyes that ensnare the beholder with its hypnotic gaze (“This is not a Serpenti that is going to bite. It is seductive,” said Della Croce in his introduction); Fiore necklaces that honour the simple essence of a single wild flower; Parentesi colliers and bracelets that continue to bear the links of its original 1980s incarnation (inspired by the travertine junctions of roman pavements), but which now come with diamond pavé; and not to mention the extravagant necklaces of the Divas’ Dream collection that take inspiration from the Caracalla Baths and patterned Roman mosaics of ancient palaces.
Timepieces also ranged from the lavishly gem-studded (such as the Serpenti Incantati with its new rounded form) to those that speak of horological ingenuity. The Octo Finissimo Répétition Minute was one such creation that dazzled. It is the thinnest minute repeater watch and movement in the market at just 3.12mm thick.
Close your eyes and listen to its chime (delivered through the dial’s acoustic gill) as the waters of the Andaman lap up against the shore and one could imagine standing a continent away, lost in one of the Mediterranean’s wild villages.