The Bulgari Serpenti Is Still the Master of Seduction

bulgari serpenti
The Bulgari Serpenti & the Art of SeductionBrendan James

“The Serpent me beguiled, and I did eat.” It has always been my favorite line from Milton’s Paradise Lost—and yes, I am aware that it first appeared elsewhere. “Beguiled” suggests a kind of witchcraft laced with wit and whimsy. One beguiles another with a sparkle in the eye. Let’s say, for the purposes of this story, it’s with an emerald, maybe two. And let’s—with apologies to Milton and Genesis and Vassar professor Mark C. Amodio—put it this way: “The Bulgari Serpenti me beguiled, and I did write.”

The Serpenti, a snakelike jewel introduced in abstract form in 1948 (and with scales and head and all around 1950), is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with a special collection that will be revealed—true to its namesake—little by little over the course of 2023. A dedicated pop-up is opening in Beverly Hills this month, and an exhibition in New York follows in June.

I have written about this holy grail of jewelry design for about 20 of its 75 years, but just as the snake is a symbol of rebirth and transformation, the Serpenti constantly renews itself.

Sometimes the renewal is seen in stones and materials. The piece shown here is studded with emeralds; another in the collection is punctuated by 70 rubies. Some are done in gold, others in enamel. Often a Serpenti is brought to life by the woman wearing it. Diana Vreeland wrestled her snake belt into a necklace. In the end, they both won.

Above: Bulgari Serpenti necklace ($75,000); Set design by Mariana Vera

This story appears in the March 2023 issue of Town & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW

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