Just 29 years old, Wagner Eleuteri represents the third generation of a family that has amassed one of the world’s most incredible vintage jewelry collections—from lush, cabochon-covered bracelets by Bulgari and distinctive Egyptian-inspired necklaces by Van Cleef & Arpels to postwar Patek Philippes and more.
Originally purveyors of antique decor in Rome at the end of the 19th century, Pietro Eleuteri, Wagner’s grandfather, refined the focus of his family’s business to vintage jewelry in the 1960s. Since then, Eleuteri has expanded to boutiques in Venice, Milan, and, most recently, Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Here, we ask Wagner Eleuteri for tips on what vintage designs we should always be looking for, the fail-safe pieces you can wear forever, and his most recent breathtaking discovery.
First piece of jewelry you were given?
When I was baptized as a baby, I was given a gold cross pendant from the 19th century, made in Italy. I wear it for special occasions now, like on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or Easter. For my first communion, I was given a watch—a vintage GMT Rolex dated 1958—which I started wearing when I was 18 or 19 years old and still wear to this day.
Are there any accessories for men that are particularly popular right now?
Vintage watches—especially Patek Philippe designs from post-World War II, between the 1950s and the 1970s. If you’re giving a man a gift for a holiday or birthday, cuff links are perfect; you can’t go wrong.
What are some of your all-time favorite pieces?
I have a natural tendency toward colorful jewelry—bold jewelry that’s a little showy and spunky. I love jewelry with lots of semi-precious gems and cabochon stones. Designs like these were pioneered after World War II, mainly by Italian houses like Bulgari and Fasano.
I’m also a big fan of the old Victorian tremblant flower brooches that tremble and move whenever they’re shaken or touched. They’re like a piece of art more than anything.
Are brooches coming back?
Compared to 5 years ago, yes, they are, definitely. Younger women in their thirties and forties are approaching brooches again. I see them wearing [brooches] on their hats, in their hair, or on their shoes, even.
Iconic, must-have pieces for every jewelry collection?
If you go with Cartier or Van Cleef, I would advise choosing pieces from the Art Deco period or the ’40s and ’50s. For Van Cleef, look into the Egyptian and Indian revival collections.
When it comes to Bulgari, go with designs from the so-called dolce vita period in Italy, in the ’60s and ’70s.
Most recent, exciting jewelry discovery?
I actually just bought a beautiful Cartier Art Deco bracelet from the mid to late ’20s, also by Cartier New York. It’s very geometrical, and the unusual part of it is its three very, very long emerald-cut diamonds. Unusually long, like disproportionally long, I would say.
What’s a great go-to, classic piece of jewelry?
I would say a gold bracelet or a pair of gold earrings—something you would wear at least every week. Choose something as wearable as possible. In terms of an investment, if I were a woman, I wouldn’t go for the very expensive piece of jewelry I’d get to wear once every couple of years but rather something that I would wear every day—something I could get the most out of. That might be a solitaire or a gold bracelet. You know, jewels are meant to be worn; they’re not meant to be in a safe at home or in a bank vault.