Lucia Silvestri does not come across as one of the most powerful women in the world of high jewellery. Dressed in a perfect white cotton shirt and adorned with the one boho-inspired MVSA tassled necklace I’ve already picked out as my favourite, she chats casually about her job, which has been described as the “Indiana Jones of fine jewellery”.
Part of the Bulgari team for more than 30 years, Silvestri spends much of her time scouring the planet for the most beautiful gems possible, and she can see the potential in a stone far beyond its immediate exterior.
Pity the Indian gentleman who tried for years to sell her a 180ct sugarloaf sapphire — it was faceted and “too heavy” in the Bulgari expert’s eyes.
Silvestri worked with the gem merchant for nine years before she felt he had created a stone that she could use. After two cuts, the priceless sapphire was down to 125ct and Silvestri was satisfied that she could see the life inside the stone. When she finally bough the gemstone on behalf of Bulgari, the dealer wept.
Silvestri says there are no rules to what she does. “I play at the gem table and then something happens,” she says — gently fingering a pile of sweetie-like cabochon stones lying on the design table in front of her. Trays filled with putty are the “playground” where she and her team arrange the gemstones to create the colourful patterns that will ultimately come to life in the Bulgari jewellery manufacturing studios.
In addition to designing the actual pieces, Silvestri also creates new gem cuts when needed: “I don’t like ‘artichokes’ — stones that are too high,” she says.
The distinctive Takhti cut is a flat-backed rectangular cabochon, and a stroke of brilliance as a new addition to the Bulgari design signature. Bulgari was also brave enough to turn precious gemstones into beads and add them to much of their current fine jewellery collection to provide a sense of movement.
Bulgari has a few distinctive characteristics, with the first being colour. With its Italian flair, there’s no fear here and rubies, sapphires, emeralds and amethysts are often combined in riotous splendour.
Rome also serves as endless inspiration. Each year a collection will include a graphic reference to a Roman symbol, and the maison involves itself in the city’s wellbeing. In 2016, for example, Bulgari funded the refurbishment of the famous Spanish Steps just 100m from their flagship boutique on the Via Condotti.
And then there’s the cabochon. When all the others were faceting their stones for maximum sparkle, Bulgari believed in the rich, deep and sensual effect of the smooth-as-can-be cabochon.
At the Bulgari workshop on the outskirts of Rome, a single craftsman works on each piece of jewellery and each major design from the high jewellery collection can take up to four months to make by hand.
This year the theme of the Bulgari collection is Serpenti, with the seductive serpent inspiring everything from jewellery to handbag clips. The hypnotic brilliance of jeweled snake heads and graphic interpretations of snake scales are all features in the 2016 collection.
THE WORLD OF BULGARI WATCHES
Watch collectors will be delighted to know that the iconic Serpenti Tubogas watch is now available in South Africa. Tubogas is a stretch strap technique that Bulgari has been making since the 1940s.
Other watch styles include the Octo Finissimo, the thinnest minute repeater watch on the market at 6,85mm, as well as the Octo Ultranero, which ticks the trend box on several levels thanks to its rose gold, octagonal shape and black face and strap — this season’s hottest colour combination.
THE SCENTS OF BULGARI
This year sees the launch of the Rose Goldea fragrance from Bulgari, inspired by the Serpenti rose gold jewellery collection. A sister to the golden goddess-inspired Goldea fragrance with its signature golden sun stopper, Rose Goldea, designed by Master Parfumer Alberto Morillas, is heavily inspired by the resurgence in popularity of rose gold. A contemporary expression of rose as a fragrance, with none of the old associations of this floral scent, the result is a thoroughly modern fragrance featuring only a fraction of the floral essence.
Next year sees the unveiling of an exciting new male fragrance from Bulgari — the first ever fragrance for men to be released by the Italian house. Look out for drama and, of course, jewel inspiration in the Le Gemme for Men that is available exclusively from Harrods in London from December, and in South Africa from March 2017.