The way Giampaolo Della Croce describes how Bulgari high jewelry pieces come to life sounds like a splendid sacred rite.
The legendary Italian jeweler sources its precious gemstones from the most exotic locales—India, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Myanmar, South Africa—according to its senior director for high jewelry, on a recent visit to Manila to unveil Bulgari’s just-renovated boutique in Greenbelt 4, Makati.
“When we bring our little treasures into our atelier, our gems room as we call it,” Della Croce said, “each gem is wrapped in white paper. It’s like a ritual: We drink our cups of coffee. Mr. [Paolo] Bulgari feels the gems.”
The company chair, son of the founder, still oversees a team of eight designers in the creation of Bulgari’s high jewelry, Della Croce said. “He closes his eyes [to feel] the proportion, the appeal of the gem. You see, we don’t use just the high-quality gems. We want gems that suit the feminine beauty—gentle, soft, not sharp, and wearable. It has to be generous and round.”
And so they talk shop amid a veritable candy shop filled with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, amethysts, turquoises, topazes, tourmalines, citrines, chalcedonies, onyxes, imagining the one-of-a-kind, extraordinary pieces of jewelry that will be created from their coffer. One collection may start with a sketch; another might take shape according to the shape and color of the gemstones.
This Della Croce narrated with a passionate gleam in his eyes, the kind that comes from a man whose sole pursuit for the last 28 years was to bring the same exhilaration and joy to every woman privileged to own and wear a piece of Bulgari high jewelry.
“It’s a matter of pride if I see a lady wear [a Bulgari jewelry] with pleasure,” he said. “When I put on a jewelry on a woman like Julianne Moore or Carla Bruni-Sarkozy,” referring to the house’s celebrity ambassadors, “I instantly see in their eyes. I see their reaction. I feel that same pleasure when I go to a Bulgari event and I see the sparkle in any woman’s eyes.”
Bulgari is a 130-year-old brand with a wealth of heritage, and its designers, time and again, have been known to reference collections from decades past. To wit, the Monete and the Parentesi from the 1970s, the Tubogas from the 1940s, the Serpenti of the 1950s. And yet, it’s also one of those rare brands that seem to have kept current even as it continues to use its traditional symbols.
“Our competitors just open their books and copy from their old styles, so you don’t know if they’re from the 1970s or 1960s or now,” Della Croce said. “That’s their style, and that’s it. What we like very much are collectible jewels that are meaningful because they’re talking of a certain decade, and yet they’re equally modern and contemporary. We can be new and innovative every time and still craft jewels which are absolutely collectible.”
For this visit, Della Croce, with Asia Pacific regional managing director WeiLing Wong, unveiled Bulgari’s latest collections: the Musa and the Diva.
The Diva collection is a follow-up to the 2013 collection of the same name, and is an homage to icons like Cleopatra and Elizabeth Taylor. The motif of the collection is a distinct fan shape, inspired by the mosaics in the ancient Roman baths of Caracalla. They’re of pink gold, mother-of-pearl, onyx and diamonds.
Musa is one of those collections that are inspired by the gemstones themselves, the name of which is a nod to the nine muses of Greek mythology. There are 26 pieces consisting of necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets. Some of the stones take the distinct egg shape of palace rooftops of Indian maharajahs called takhti, as well as the generous, supple cabochon cut.
There are 100 one-off high-jewelry pieces from the Musa collection. Bulgari is known for its rainbow of gemstones, and with Musa, it becomes even clearer why the jeweler is sought by collectors.
Della Croce isn’t a believer in following trends, nor does he allow markets to dictate what sort of jewelry should be made.
“We like to surprise. It’s an emotional approach. A lot of passion go into our stylistic motifs,” he said. “If you want to surprise, you can’t craft something that’s too classic. That’s not what they expect of us. When we have international events with all the VIPs, I get lots of messages. ‘How are you going to surprise us?’ They’re very open. It’s a big honor and a big challenge also.”
And in high jewelry, sky’s the limit when it comes to price points, Della Croce said.
“There’s much competition. We exceed expectations with creativity at interesting prices. We work hard to find the best gems and apply our craftsmanship. We have pieces that are 15, 17, 20 million euros. In high-end jewelry, how can you limit?”