Bulgari Pays a Jewel-Filled Tribute to Rome

Bib necklace in gold with multicolored sapphires and diamonds, 2005. Photo: BFA

Long before it became a part of the all-powerful LVMH group, Bulgari opened up as a small jewelry shop in Rome in 1884. The brand remains seriously committed to those Roman ties — it’s the main inspiration in their designs, and now the center of a new exhibition called “BVLGARI + ROME: Eternal Inspiration.” Starting today, their New York flagship is playing host to 40 pieces curated from their archives and private collections, plus authentic ancient Roman artifacts, like marble busts of Venus and coins dating back to the first century. The Cut spoke with Lucia Boscaini, Bulgari’s brand and heritage curator, to find out more.

What are some ways you can see the Roman inspiration in Bulgari’s jewelry?
The cabochon cut adopted for the stones, one of the most celebrated Bulgari hallmarks, evokes the cupolas that characterize the Roman landscapes, and the elliptical shapes in many creations from the ‘70s clearly recall the typical elliptical plan of many baroque buildings and squares. As seen in many ceilings of historical buildings, another common shape in Roman art is the octagon, which has been reinterpreted in the 1970s pendants of the Bulgari sautoirs and the modern Bulgari Octo watch. Roman pavements are another source of inspiration for the way the stones are set in certain pieces.

How did you end working with the American Numismatic Society to display $1 million in ancient coins?
The ANS has one of the most exquisite collections of rare coins in New York City, some of which convey some of the most compelling histories of Ancient Rome. We included superb examples from the early and late Republic, featuring Augustus, Nero, Anthony, and Cleopatra. There’s also one of the most infamous coins of all time: the “Ides of March” denarius issued by Brutus in 43-42 BC to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar and to remind his soldiers — once he fled Rome — that he had set them “free” by killing a tyrant. We’re showcasing them alongside several of our archival Monete pieces, which feature rare coins and exalt them to jewel status.

Are there any items inside you’d like to highlight?
At the height of their infamously public love affair, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton commissioned Bulgari to create a silver cigarette box in 1962. They gave it to their Cleopatra director Joseph Mankiewicz as a memento and wedding present, inscribing it with: “To Our Favorite Producer and Wife / Lest we forget the glamour of it all / All Love / Elizabeth & Rich.”

Click through the slideshow for a look inside the exhibition, on display at the 730 Fifth Ave. flagship until November 22.

Bulgari Pays a Jewel-Filled Tribute to Rome