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Roman Ingenuity

  • Jill Newman

Bulgari’s timeless new designs celebrate the Eternal City.

When he arrived in Rome from his native Greece in 1881, Sotirio Bulgari probably did not anticipate that the store he established on Via Sistina—just a stone’s throw from the historic Spanish Steps—would one day be renowned as an international jewelry brand whose aesthetic is inextricably linked to his adopted city. The house of Bulgari has certainly been enriched by its relationship with the Italian capital—so much so, in fact, that the company is marking the 130th anniversary of its founding with a roughly $2 million donation toward the restoration of the Piazza di Spagna’s celebrated stairs, which Sotirio traversed daily between his rounds at his original shop and the second one he opened on Via Condotti. The residents of Rome, however, are not the only beneficiaries of this important milestone: To honor the metropolis that fed its creative spirit for more than a century, Bulgari has unveiled a limited-edition series of Roman-themed jewelry designs and gem-encrusted watches that hark back to those it produced in the 1960s, when style icons such as Elizabeth Taylor embraced the brand’s boldness.

 “You can recognize Bulgari jewelry 10 meters away,” says Jean-Christophe Babin, Bulgari’s CEO, who attributes the unique spirit of the pieces to unorthodox compositions of bright-hued precious and semiprecious stones that are as striking as Rome’s ancient monuments and as energetic as the streets of Trastevere. “It is the amazing and unexpected combinations of colors set in a mosaic,” he adds, “like a magical puzzle with a sprinkling of diamonds meant to shine a light on colored stones.”

More literal allusions to the Eternal City can be found throughout Bulgari’s history, especially in such past signature designs as the Roman coin pendants, the B.zero1 cylindrical rings that suggest the circular shape of the Coliseum and other ancient structures, and the Parentesi jewelry collection, whose designs playfully echo the joints of the city’s pavement. Like Rome, Babin says, “Our high jewelry is bold, daring, and audacious."

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