A few months after Bulgari launched its Diva high-jewelry collection in Paris, its exclusive distributor in Manila recently launched the boutique line of Diva in a dinner and show featuring singer Vernie Varga and violinist Princess Ybañez at the Makati Shangri-La.
“The pieces launched in Paris were bigger and limited in number,” said Mario Katigbak, Bulgari’s country manager in the Philippines. “Those featured in the boutique collection were smaller, relatively more affordable and readily available worldwide.”
Boutique pieces are done in volume using smaller stones set in 18-karat white, yellow or rose gold. But the same degree of workmanship that went into Bulgari’s high-jewelry collection was also applied to its boutique series.
“The stones may be smaller, but every component was carefully selected for its beauty and quality,” said Katigbak. “Bulgari’s jewelers and artisans, who are all based in Italy, have been with the company for decades.”
Like the costlier high-jewelry collection, which featured former French first lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy as its endorser, Diva’s boutique collection pays homage to actress Elizabeth Taylor.
Taylor, a big fan of Bulgari, once wore a Bulgari necklace with a huge detachable emerald pendant given to her as a wedding gift by then husband Richard Burton. Adorned with diamonds and smaller emeralds ranging from six to 15 karats, the necklace was the same piece she wore in a scene in “Cleopatra.”
“In fact, I wanted to complement the launch with a private screening of ‘Cleopatra’ scheduled for another night,” said Katigbak. “I wanted clients to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for Diva’s inspiration. But we had to scrap it because we didn’t have enough time.”
Most of Taylor’s prized Bulgari pieces have been bought back by the company from a foundation managing the late actress’ estate.
“Fan-shaped elements encrusted with precious stones like pavé diamonds and sapphires, and semiprecious stones like amethysts, rubellites and peridots make up most of the pieces in the collection,” said Katigbak. “A number of diamond pieces were combined with mother-of-pearl. The fans are said to mirror the shape of Elizabeth’s eye shadow in the movie.”
Like a recurring theme, the fan-shaped details were evident in a number of drop earrings and necklaces. To give each piece of jewelry some swing, Bulgari artisans fashion jewelry pieces using separate components that are later integrated into one.
Unlike cheaper copycats, authentic Bulgari pieces move with their wearers. At the same time, they’re heavy and stable enough to stay flat and show their more beautiful and polished side.
“But they make sure that the flip side of each piece is still finely crafted even if nobody bothers to look at it,” said Katigbak. “Such attention to details is the mark of a good jewelry company, which takes pride in its work.”
To add to the degree of difficulty, artisans bored holes into certain stones like rubellites, amethysts and peridots before inserting each with a diamond stud. Apart from being expensive to achieve, such design flourish requires utmost care and precision.
“It’s a very intricate process,” said Katigbak. “You have to be careful. Otherwise, the bigger stone might break. It has been done before in some high-jewelry pieces, but this is the first time they’re doing it to smaller boutique pieces.”
The event was also inspired by an earlier outdoor launch Bulgari did in Portofino, Italy. To recreate a garden setting, Katigbak and his team had the entire lobby leading to a number of function rooms in the hotel’s first floor closed off and sectioned with a series of artificial hedges.
A long table was set up to accommodate guests composed of loyal clients, society figures and members of the media. Even the menu was color-coordinated to reflect the various precious and semiprecious stones that make up the Diva series.
Ybañez led fellow violinists Glendale Acquias and Kyla Ibero in entertaining guests during dinner. The evening culminated with guests being led back to the cocktail area to view the
actual pieces up close.
Diana Ross, Vernie Varga
In keeping with the Portofino launch, which featured ultimate diva Diana Ross, Katigbak tapped Varga, a diva in her own right, to dish out a number of songs. Wearing a strapless animal-print dress and sunburst diamond pieces from Diva’s high-jewelry line, the singer was in her element.
“I’ve known Vernie and her husband Ricky Oledan from way back,” Katigbak said. “The last time she had a show was with Leo Valdes more than two years ago. But it was just a one-night engagement. She readily accepted my invitation.”
Before long, models in Pablo Cabahug’s draped numbers in lilac descended the stairs to show off to guests the merchandise. Even the color of their gowns was a reference to Taylor’s unique pair of violet eyes.
“Pablo also patterned the gowns after one of the dresses Elizabeth wore in her movies,” said Katigbak. “In fact, the event’s main color scheme was confined almost to shades of violet—from lilac to lavender.”
PHOTOS BY ROMY HOMILLADA