Bulgari was one of the first major jewellery houses to respond to the Covid-19 crisis, with a major donation to Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani hospital. It subsequently produced hundreds of thousands of bottles of medical-grade hand sanitiser for frontline healthcare workers in Italy, Switzerland and the UK, and most recently announced a partnership with Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, including a major donation and funding of two PhD scholarships in vaccine research.
At the same time as its philanthropic efforts, the house has continued to produce its exuberant, life-affirming high jewellery. The new Barocko collection is a tribute to Rome’s art and architecture, with all the pomp and grandeur of the eternal city rendered in a cacophony of coloured gemstones.
Three chapters encompass Light, Colour and Magnificence, the calling cards of the 17th-century movement. Bulgari’s creative director Lucia Silvestri begins many of her designs by toying with loose gemstones in her Rome office, mixing and matching them like a child playing with marbles.
It’s easy to see how this approach gave rise to pieces such as the Cabochon Exuberance necklace, a subtly asymmetric rainbow of sweetie-like tanzanites, rubellites, emeralds and aquamarines, or the Lady Arabesque necklace, in which various cuts of pink and violet sapphires, emeralds and Paraiba tourmalines are swept up in rollicking waves of diamond-set gold, capturing the flamboyant flourishes of baroque architecture.
Other pieces begin with a more concrete inspiration, such as the statue of Archangel Michael atop the Castel Sant’Angelo papal fortress that inspired the diamond-set Wings of Rome necklace, the delicate baroque lace fabrics that are recreated in diamonds and sapphires in the Sapphire Lace necklace, or the optical illusions that feature on the ceiling of the Sant’Ignazio di Loyola church, rendered in a mosaic of diamonds and emeralds in a bib-style necklace finished with a Colombian sugarloaf emerald.
Typically voluptuous in form and unapologetic in its liberal use of precious stones, this is Bulgari at its glamorous best. Like the baroque artists who used lavish ornamentation to inspire a sense of awe, these are jewels designed to stop you in your tracks. And what could be a better antidote to fear and uncertainty than a flourish of Italian decadence?
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