Epitomised by the timeless tales of romance between actress Elizabeth Taylor and her actor husband Richard Burton, and her passion for the rarest diamonds, rubies and sapphires, Bulgari’s claim to be the preferred jeweller to the rich and famous appears seamless. Taylor’s fondness for Bulgari is the stuff of legends. Her special relationship with the Roman jeweller was once summed by Burton as, "The only word she knows in Italian is Bulgari."
Bulgari’s flagship boutique at Via Condotti near the Spanish Steps in Rome, which was frequented by the couple between takes to escape the paparazzi during the shooting of Cleopatra is full of memorabilia and photographs that bear the stamp of their romance. I got a rare sneak peek to this prized collection at their store in 2012 during the launch of the iconic Bulgari collection, the Octo.
A true connoisseur, Taylor was not just drawn to precious stones, but also to the craftsmanship that went behind making the exquisite pieces. Her emerald engagement ring, popularly known as the Taylor Burton fiancée ring, or the iconic diamond and emerald necklace she wore at her wedding are testament to her discerning taste in jewellery. Such was the power of her iconic collection, known as the Crown Jewels of Hollywood, that it broke records when it went up for auction at Christie's in 2011, netting more than $137 million, to date, one of the most valuable jewellery sales in history.
The modern take
Taking forward the legacy of Taylor’s love interest in coloured stones and exquisite craftsmanship — colourful, geometric, intensely Italian, and consistently precious — Bulgari's creativity has been steadily evolving since its origins, as its heritage pieces vividly demonstrate. There couldn’t be a better occasion than the intimate invite-only LVMH Watch Week in Singapore, when the Maison decided to showcase their mastery with innovation in craftsmanship, pushing the envelope of creative expressions even further.
Rare to dream
Bulgari celebrates the Roman vibrancy with colour and emotion through their new expression — Diva’s Dream; the joyful and playful Dolce Vita spirit shining through precious and extrovert opulence. The mastery in shaping gems to define the new Diva's Dream creations derives from the rich legacy of the Maison introducing the cabochon cut and flirting with brightly coloured stones way back in the 1950s or working on opulent brooches and necklaces in the 1980s and 1990s or even introducing various shapes and shades in well-designed proportions and sizes. Its virtuosity in creating sophisticated gem-set motifs came later in 1991.
The wrist movements make the precious moving petals flutter around the pearly face of Diva's Dream watches. The particular shape is reminiscent of the ginkgo leaf, symbolising the union of opposites; in this case, combining the hardness of the stones with the fluidity of the fanned petals. In colours ranging from the blues to the mauves to the reds, the Diva’s Dream exudes feminity with brilliantly set topazes, tanzanites, amethysts, tourmalines, rubies and diamonds. The beauty of polished rose gold at the base of the petals combines with the sparkle of diamonds, paired with perfectly matched straps.
The mosaic effect
Taking a step forward with the collection, Bulgari launches another two precious new Diva's Dream Mosaica models to express the full extent of its jewellery and watchmaking expertise. On the full-set dial, a fan-shaped pattern reminisces the mosaics adorning the Baths of Caracalla, with a subtle sapphire gradient ranging from pale pink to magenta for the rose gold version and from sky blue to deep azure for the white gold iteration. A polished gold decorative fillet rims this design, against a background of brilliant-cut diamonds. The bezel is lit up with bright coloured gems and the crown is set with Bulgari’s signature cabochon-cut diamonds. Vividly coloured gems light up the hours on the bezel and crown set with cabochon-cut diamonds. The transparent caseback reveals a finely decorated mechanical automatic movement from the Bulgari Manufacture manufacture in Switzerland.
The Serpenti push up
Bulgari’s signature, the mystical snake, featured a stylised geometry in the form of a watch as early as 1948, with tubogas embracing the wrist with its undulations. A complex technique that involves coiling several metres of gold or steel wire forms the backbone of this wrapping bracelet, unique to Bulgari. However, the particular construction of the tubogas didn’t allow the Bulgari designers to do gem-setting on the bracelet.
In 2023, in a technical innovation that can have far-reaching implications, Bulgari has introduced a modular construction opening up infinite opportunities to set gems on the bracelet of the new Serpenti Tubogas Infinity. Adopting a completely new technique, the rings here are moulded – each in unique dimensions – before being polished, gem-set and assembled on a titanium blade. Snow-setting on the dial, a gem-set bezel and eight diamonds adding to the brilliance at the curve of the case. The brilliance of the diamonds extends the head of the snake, lit up by snow setting on the dial, a gem-set bezel and eight diamonds on the curve of the case.
On being asked whether the wavy diamond setting on the tubogas is also a snake pattern, the Creative Director of Bulgari, Fabrizio Buonamassa-Stigliani says, “No, it is just a wave, it is the opposite of the very rigid construction of the tubogas, that’s like a straight line. I needed to break this kind of geometry approach with something that is very smooth, very feminine, because otherwise, geometry upon geometry starts to become very cold.”
The two initial versions presented at the LVMH Watch Week are fitted with single twirl and double twirl bracelets. The double twirl version carries a 35 mm curved rose gold case set with 8 diamonds, rose gold bezel set with 44 brilliant-cut diamonds, dial paved with 262 diamonds, rose gold crown set with a cabochon-cut pink rubellite, rose gold bracelet partially set with 172 diamonds (4.25 ct)- a total of 486 diamonds (5.85ct).
Not to lose out on the power of pop culture, Bulgari also released the limited edition BVLGARI BVLGARI X LISA in collaboration with the Blackpink vocalist, the Maison’s daring muse.
Working with Lisa’s ultra-feminine, ultra-determined personality and her favourite flower, the edelweiss, as the emblem, Bulgari has crafted this stunning timepiece in steel and rose gold with a BVLGARI BVLGARI engraved bezel and a dial lit up by diamonds.
Born in 1977, BVLGARI BVLGARI still remains a powerful statement. The singer is bold with her own modern-day codes that complement the iconic design from the 1970s. Quintessentially Swiss and Lisa’s favourite flower- the edelweiss is also a perfect emblem of the country where the Bulgari Manufacture is located. Her involvement with the project is evident when the vocalist draws her own initial, an ‘L’ at the heart of the petals. The artist also composes her own codes that are incredibly in tune with the times. She personally chose and designed her rendering of her favourite flower, the edelweiss: a very Swiss Alpine star and a nod to the country that she cherishes and where the Bulgari watch Manufacture is located. At the heart of the petals, the singer has drawn her own initial, an "L" recalling her involvement in this project. This sketch is engraved on the back of the BVLGARI BVLGARI X LISA.
As a sharp contrast to the vividly displayed BVLGARI BVLGARI on the rose gold bezel, the dial is minimalist in pure and idyllic colour – green, blue, tinged with purple, maybe. A shade that shifts subtly with the light on the sunray dial. Twelve hour markers are adorned by diamonds and the exquisite hands are made of rose gold. a shade that subtly shifts with the light on the dial’s finely sunray pattern. Twelve diamonds mark the hours, swept over by two rose gold hands. The precious rose gold crown is topped by a cabochon-cut rubellite, bringing back an old Bulgari aesthetic code.
Not everyone can own this timepiece clearly, it is issued in limited series of 700 for the 33 mm-diameter and 300 for the 23 mm-diameter versions respectively.