If there’s one thing the Italians know, it’s passion. Bulgari’s Lucia Silvestri and Giampaolo Della Croce speak to Debby Kwong about their designs, dreams and delicious desires
Brilliant, one-of-a-kind masterpieces bursting with colours and dripping with shine—Bulgari’s Magnificent Inspirations High Jewellery collection is a luscious delight for the senses. And the exclusive Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, in Krabi, Thailand, was the perfect setting to showcase the vibrant creations, testament to the sparklingly effervescent relationship between its creators: Jewellery Creative Director, Lucia Silvestr i, and High Jewellery Senior Director, Giampaolo Della Croce. For the past 28 years, they have been bringing together their shared references and collective vision at the storied brand, culminating in one magnificently gorgeous gemstone creation after another. An intimate chat with the duo on the launch of this Magnificent Inspirations collection reveals their creative process inspired by a shared love for gems; passion for design and the easy camaraderie between the main protagonists. Debby Kwong: Let’s start off with your favourite piece from the collection. Lucia Silvestri: It is very difficult to say but one of my favourite pieces is the rose gold necklace (shown at right)—I remember exactly when I bought the stones and put it together. I collected the chestnut-shaped gemstones in Jaipur, the emerald beads from New York, and the spinels from Hong Kong. It is truly an international piece. We call it the “ happy necklace.” When I wear the necklace, I feel so good and proud. I feel the energy of the stones. Giampaolo Della Croce: Gemstones are yummy, juicy… This is the spirit we want to infuse into a jewel. Something you crave, because it’s so enchanting. Something that is not merely beautiful, but something you desperately want to wear. When Lucia arrived this morning, I told her, “Darling, tonight you are not going to have the flamboyancy of the happy necklace.” LS: It got sold, the necklace is gone. We consider it a piece of art. GDC: I like the Fiore necklace (shown above). That baby has also found a new mum. DK: I love how the necklace was described as a tribute to the wildflowers of childhood. GDC: Yes, it is an ingenuous flower. A flower that is so fresh and naïve in a way—like children picking dandelions in the field—it is very simple. But that simplicity is related very much to the art that we are very close to: Pop Art. We are very “pop” as jewellers, I would say. We want to create things that are going to become symbols, much more than copying elements of nature. We are into the creative side of the design. Also, the craftsmanship—the petals are made of shaped turquoises. Tiny little tassels of turquoise shaped to perfectly fit the design. Can you imagine?
And the gradient of shades, those tiny little tanzanites and blue sapphires had to follow a certain kind of shade. Hundreds of shades within the same flower. LS: It also moves, like a fringe around the neck. It is very feminine. GDC: I have to say, we are particularly good at crafting necklaces. The way we work on necklaces is definitely better. It’s not by chance we have a lady leading the creative team; what we design and what we do is immediate. She tries on the jewels. And she can say, “Oh no, this is too rigid here” or “This choker is too wide.” She feels the jewels. LS: On a normal day I like to wear earrings and bracelets But for high jewellery, I like to wear necklaces. I feel the necklace; it feels like a second skin. DK: It definitely sits well on you. What’s your favourite part of the job? LS: For me, it’s when I play with the stones. It’s something really energetic, creative and playful. I feel like a painter with colours. GDC: I’m a gemologist, so to play with the gems, and to travel with Lucia, to touch them... Do you remember when we were in Japan with the pearls? We had that ritual where we went to select the pearls every time. Actually, the management there was a little upset with us because they’re used to working over the phone, but we wanted to go there and select them one by one. Now, the most exciting part for me is to meet the clients, and to look at their eyes while they’re looking at the jewels. If I see that the jewel doesn’t speak to the lady, I will ask her, “What is your favourite colour?” “Red.” “Oh did you see this necklace, this ring?” I start to tell the story and I look at her eyes. Because the eyes can tell you a lot. DK: It’s like a Cinderella moment. Finding the perfect piece of jewellery. GDC: When your client attends an event wearing that piece of jewellery, you feel proud because you see the jewellery come alive. LS: It’s true. We are very passionate about the jewels. Remember our first trip to India in 1999? GDC: That was a definitely a memorable experience. LS: It was a vacation. But we had the opportunity to buy gems there even though we were on vacation with some friends. We couldn’t resist. It was an amazing trip and a great story at the street market. GDC: We were at a common market in Jaipur, and there was a lady selling medium to low quality gems. But what caught our attention was the interesting tumbled peridot necklace she was wearing. Lucia was crazy for it. LS: I wanted the necklace, five big strands. We never saw something so special. So we started to negotiate to buy her necklace. After a long negotiation, she said “Ok, I’ll sell it to you.” But we had to pay by credit card, because they didn’t know Bulgari. It was strange for us to pay via credit card, not with an invoice. I said, “Okay, we will take on the responsibility to buy it if Mr Bulgari doesn’t like it… ” GDC: But as soon as Lucia arrived in the office, when Mr Bulgari asked, “How was your journey to India?” you could see he got distracted by the necklace and told her to put it on the table. “It’s very interesting, where did you find it? I want this necklace for my wife.” LS: With that, he got inspired to create the Sassi collection. It was a beautiful collection. DK: Do you remember the first stone that you fell in love with? LS: Yes, it was in Sri Lanka. I saw this huge parcel of fancy pear-shaped coloured sapphires, and I went crazy because of the colours, because of the brilliance of the gems. It was my first wow. I started to make flowers, playing with the colours, and I ended up with a table full of flowers, from the huge ones to the small ones. That’s how we started the Flora collection, an incredible collection. GDC: For me, it’s related to you darling, as usual. I’m a gemologist and the first time I had a chance to have an interview at Bulgari, the former boss introduced me to Lucia. She asked me, “Do you have a favourite gem?” I said, “Yes, I love rubies or spinels. She took a red leather box, opened it and it was… “Wow. I need to work for this brand.” Three lines of huge rubies. Practising to be a gemologist, the rubies we used to work on were very small ones. And there were a lot, and huge ones. LS: For me, it was quite normal, but I can remember his face! He was shocked. GDC: Still, today. Absolutely.
“If I see that the jewel doesn’t speak to the lady, I will ask her, ‘What is your favourite colour?’” - Giampaolo Della Croce