For aficionados, collectors and religious admirers of Bvlgari’s iconic high jewellery, Lucia Silvestri has become synonymous with the colourful gemstones and exquisite designs they are set in. After all, she became the protégé of Paulo Bulgari over four decades ago, accompanying him on trips to exotic parts of the world in search of the most flawless gemstones. When she talks about her passion – gemstones and jewellery – her eyes light up like greenish-blue sapphires.
In 2019, I’d interviewed Silvestri in her atelier in Rome – the inner sanctum of jewellery creation at Bvlgari. This time, we meet again at a virtual “gems table” discussion, joined by a handful of editors from Asia-Pacific. The conversation focuses on her inspiration, as well as the new Magnifica High Jewellery and High-End Watches collection launched in June during a two-day event in Milan. Showcased were some 350 masterpieces that expressed Bvlgari’s Roman DNA, creativity and its 137 years of experience and expertise. The collection counts at least 60 pieces valued at over €1 million (S$1.6 million) each, in addition to 122 never-before-seen works of art.
“This is my beautiful gems table; full of gemstones, and of course, full of energy,” Lucia kicks off with a sweeping gesture over her desk, filled with precious stones of all sizes and colours. “Everything starts from this table – Magnifica did too, over a year ago. With this collection we wanted to pay tribute to all the magnificent women in the world, drawing inspiration from different women in different eras in history.”
Indeed, fearless and audacious women are undeniably one of Bvlgari’s eternal inspirations. In the Magnifica collection, the Diamond’s Passion necklace – enriched with a cascade of diamonds totalling 64 carats and requiring 2,000 hours to complete – is an ode to Hortensia, a skilled orator who bravely took a stand for women in ancient Rome.
The Baroque Spiral necklace is inspired by Artemisia Gentileschi, a celebrated 17th-century Baroque artist renowned for her use of the chiaroscuro technique and challenging the social norms of the period. A symbol of life and evolution, the piece’s spiral geometry was created to reflect the Italian painter’s rebellious, indomitable spirit. Gentileschi’s dramatic use of colours also inspired the sophisticated boldness of Prodigious Colour, an exceptional pink gold necklace adorned with five flamboyant cabochon-cut gems comprising an amethyst, citrine, rubellite, blue topaz and pink quartz weighing over 288 carats and surrounded by pavé-diamonds and green tourmalines.
There are also creations that celebrate Polish Art Deco artist Tamara de Lempicka (the Diamond Swan necklace), the Maharani of Indore (the Lotus Flower necklace), Chinese-born American writer and feminist Eileen Chang (the Imperial Diamond necklace), and celebrated architect Zaha Hadid (the Fluid Tanzanite necklace).
Silvestri admits she is particularly proud of the Fluid Tanzanite necklace, as it not only pays tribute to Hadid’s unique architectural style, but also the brave, pioneering and powerful spirit of a woman who followed her dreams and always stayed true to her vision.
One of Bvlgari’s ultimate icons, the tubogas is enriched with pavé-set diamonds following a sensual design inspired by the architect’s signature use of curves and irregular geometries. Stealing the spotlight is a central 77.88-carat cabochon tanzanite that adds a magnifying touch of extra seduction.
“I met Hadid a few years back when we collaborated for the B.Zero1 jewellery collection. It was an incredible experience and I was really impressed by her personality and charisma. I am very proud to dedicate a few pieces of Magnifica to her,” says Silvestri.
The creative director proceeds to explain the process of creating a high jewellery collection. “We typically start a year before the launch, and the whole process begins at this table – by playing with the gems. However, to collect the gems, I start two to three years earlier. At first, there is no design; I only call in the designers once I’ve decided on the colour combination of the gemstones, and together we will then decide how to link that to a design.”
A very important consideration for Silvestri is the cut of the stones. “Sometimes, I have to work with the gem-cutter to recut the stones in the Bvlgari style, which means that the proportion and the style of the gem has to be perfect; very elegant, not too bold and not too heavy, but ‘soft’ and sophisticated. It’s not only the colour and the clarity that must be perfect, but also the cut.”
A fine example is the 131.21-carat spinel used for the Imperial necklace. The fourth largest known spinel in the world – surrounded by a cascade of diamonds and emerald beads – was everything Silvestri was looking for. “I was sceptical at first when I heard about the stone, but I was shocked when I received the video and pictures of it. The quality of this spinel was so beautiful… It’s really one of a kind. It may be the fourth in the world in terms of weight, but it is number one in terms of quality,” Silvestri adds. “The colour is really unique. It’s red, but not really red. There’s a bit of orange inside it, but it’s not really orange. There’s a fire inside it, something really sparkling. It’s unique and I wanted to share the beauty of this spinel. I was crazy about it from the first time that I saw it in person.”
Silvestri also recalls the story behind the 93.83-carat cabochon-cut Colombian emerald featured on the Hypnotic Serpenti necklace that took 1,800 hours to complete. “When I first saw the emerald in 2018 in Jaipur, it was 97 carats and I spent one year trying to convince the supplier to recut the stone in the Bvlgari style. It was already a cabochon cut, but the dome was so big that I couldn’t see the life inside the gem. When I saw it again in Dubai, it was a little bit smaller at 95 carats. It was better, but not perfect. Finally, when I saw it again a little later in Hong Kong, I said, ‘Buongiorno!’ It was the perfect gem for Bvlgari and at that moment, I’d thought to use it for a Serpenti piece because it is one of our iconic collections. The craftsmanship for this necklace was something crazy, and we finished it only the day before the launch!”
Another creation from Magnifica is the Mediterranean Queen necklace, inspired by a Bvlgari necklace from 1969. Taking 2,400 hours to complete, five stupendous oval cushion-cut Paraiba tourmalines – with a combined weight of about 500 carats and among the rarest in the world – are connected by sinuous, curved elements punctuated with cabochon emeralds and diamonds.
“I found the first stone, the 153-carat one in the centre of the necklace, from Mozambique, and started to work on a necklace,” recounts Silvestri. “After a few weeks, I received two more gemstones from the same supplier, so I decided to use all three gems together. Then, I received two more Paraiba tourmalines from another supplier a few months later, so I had five amazing gemstones to work with. The colour of the stones remind me of the sea in Sardinia… full of happiness, full of energy. Since the stones are huge, the craftsmanship was very important to ensure that the necklace is light yet still strong enough to keep it all together. It was a challenge, but in the end, we found a way.”
Normally, Silvestri would personally travel the world for the acquisition of gemstones, but this past year has been different because of the global pandemic. “The positive thing that came out from that is that I could stay very close to the artisans,” she says. “I learnt a lot from them, and they learnt a lot from me. I was able to follow the process from the beginning to the end, and I loved it all very much.”
At the end of the day though, she’s at her happiest with her gems. “I believe in the energy of gemstones. We should never forget that gems are a gift from nature.”
To find out more, visit Bulgari.
(All images: Bulgari)
This article first appeared in the July 2021 issue of Prestige Singapore.