If you spend enough time around fine-jewellery brands, oohing and aahing over the latest diamond-dripping release, admiring the newest brilliant-cut stone nestled in an impeccable setting, it’s easy to begin to lose track of which ring belongs to which label. A mount may be different, perhaps the choice of stone may offer a clue, but it’s fair to say that, overall, much to be seen in current precious-accessory design could come from any one of a handful of maisons. Unless, that is, the piece you are looking at is Buccellati.
At this family-run firm, the difference is without question. Behind every exceptional piece are the hands of a single artisan, trained – often for as long as 10 years – to carve, pierce and polish materials until they take on the unmistakable form of the Italian marque. And behind each talented wright stands the person from whom the designs have come for 40 years: Honorary President and Creative Director Andrea Buccellati.
“When I go to Paris,” says Buccellati, “and I do the tour of Place Vendôme, 20 or 30 years ago Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chaumet – they all had their own style. Ten years after, you’re going to see copies; one with a square [stone], one in round. You no longer recognise the style of the company. Today they are trying to come back, they understand that they are losing.
“Why is the style of Buccellati still alive? Because there is a philosophy that each generation needs to have a designer in the family – my grandfather, my father, me and now my daughter. Even if I’m different from my father and so on, there is something that is still there.
“We never get a designer from outside,” he adds. “A designer from outside starts, and little-by-little he wants to add his personality; it’s normal, it’s logic. You lose, day-by-day, the style. Remember, the designer today works for you, tomorrow for somebody else. You look around and everything is the same.”
Buccellati is unflinching in the intrinsic value of this family focus, particularly as he welcomed his daughter, Lucrezia, as co-designer in 2014. “The founder, my grandfather, was a very special person,” Andrea says. “He was focused on the product and created his own style, which is very difficult today. Why? Because he wanted to keep and use the same techniques as they did in the Renaissance. He always wanted to keep this treasure of family, that passes from generation to generation, all this experience.”
“In our family, it’s always been two generations working alongside, and I think that’s how you create the balance,” Lucrezia agrees. “We complement each other, we share our opinions.”
The century of workmanship that’s helped shape Buccellati into the brand it is today, however, is due as much to the artisans who bring the ideas to life as it is to the family. “I work with people whose grandfathers worked with my grandfather, in past generations,” Buccellati recalls. “This know-how, it creates a brand. Product is the base, family is the philosophy. It’s very connected, it’s not possible to separate it.”
The men and women who create Buccellati jewellery, silverware and watches are precisely the reason the brand has never faltered – they pass a fingerprint of passion to every piece they produce. Years are spent perfecting the various hand-engraving techniques that are at the core of the label, from rigato (cutting parallel lines into the surface of the metal to create a sheen effect) to modellato (chiselling three-dimension designs on an incredibly small scale). This isn’t simply learning an art, it’s living it. In fact, when counterfeits are made, it’s for the hands at work that Andrea feels such personal injury.
“When people try to copy, they don’t respect the work of the people in the back of history,” he says, shaking his head. “There are people that live based on this, they spend generations to learn, and to be copied is – not only for Buccellati, but for all the people – the effort of generations, gone. It’s not correct. It’s not respectful.”
To respect legacy is a concept the family holds in high regard. Beyond Andrea, based in Milan, and Lucrezia, settled in New York, Buccellati observes its founder’s original intent with an internal structure built on family. Maria Cristina Buccellati, Andrea’s sister, serves as communications and marketing director, while Luca Buccellati is the label’s VIP client director. Other members of the family are involved around the world. They keep things close.
Much like the label itself, the work it does for private clients is often a family affair; parents come to shop for their children, or gentlemen come to secure that ring for someone special. Shanyan Koder, founder and director of Hua Gallery, is a muse for the brand and a personal client of the maison, one of the first Buccellati Brides.
“Every Buccellati piece is so uniquely and beautifully hand-crafted, each piece is absolutely exquisite, a work of art,” says Koder. “There’s so much intricate detail, a story and a meaning behind each piece. I feel very connected to every Buccellati piece that I own; each one represents a memory, a story, a piece of history.”
Andrea Buccellati is as involved with these personal requests as he is with those from royalty (he personally designed Koder’s ring). Yet, it’s not only for the few and the very wealthy that he designs, with partners bringing in stones that have been with them for decades, handed down by parents or grandparents. “Some [people] come with a little stone, and they realise it has not ‘real’ value but it’s the stone of their mother or grandmother. I give the same attention, the same pleasure, to do a piece like this, or a piece with a diamond of 10 carats.
“For some clients, it’s, ‘Today I will buy a car, tomorrow I will buy jewellery,’ and so on. But we have a lot of clients, women or new couples, for whom just buying the first ring is an effort, from an economical point of view. But they want to do it because they really love it, not only to buy a beautiful piece, but to give it. They save money just to buy it. Buccellati is for everyone, I always respect that.”
And in today’s world, everyone is wearing jewellery differently. No longer is the Buccellati threshold crossed only when there’s a grand ball or a proposal in the offing. Nowadays, the rules of fine jewellery have changed. This is something that Andrea knows has made Lucrezia even more valuable to the brand. “She gets inspiration that’s more from her time, and this is a transformation of the Buccellati style,” he acknowledges.
“I learned from my father, both men, of course, and our dream is to make the most beautiful jewellery for a woman. My daughter, a girl, she said to me, ‘Papi, we need to make something younger’. And it’s not even a question of younger, it’s a question of the way to wear jewellery; now, it’s jewellery you can wear every single moment of the day – from the morning to the night. It doesn’t mean the concept, the quality, the workmanship needs to change, but we have to adapt to the customer.
“Today, all information is accessible. You’re not facing somebody who knows nothing about it, you’re facing someone who knows. This is the change.It’s evolution.”