Jewelry & Watches

Bulgari Is on a Quest For Treasures From Its Past

On the glittering trail of the world's best jewelry detectives.
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE
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If you have ever wondered what a jewelry “Wanted” poster might look like, consider the all-points bulletins Bulgari occasionally places in newspapers around the world. In the center of a bracelet of sapphire and ruby beads linked to a large cabochon emerald is a plea for “exceptional jewelry created prior to 1995 to enrich the brand’s historical heritage collection.”

Why, you might ask, would a jeweler want back something it created for the sole purpose of selling it.


Heritage is a key word in the text, as is exceptional. The history of a house like Bulgari, founded 130 years ago, is a critical distinguishing quality in the luxury market, and the ability to showcase that legacy is a show of strength. And when you create collections of “exceptional” pieces, those jewels are soon out of your hands and worn out in the world. Until, of course, you call them back.

Lucia Boscaini is Bulgari’s Heritage Curator, and it is her mission (sometimes, she says, it’s more “mission impossible”) to locate pieces that represent significant moments in the Bulgari timeline. The treasures from her hunts are on permanent display in the Domus room at the brand’s Rome flagship, where a recent exhibition included a prized “Star Spangled Banner” necklace and clutch from the 1970s; a 1973 sautoir in gold, sapphire, and diamond; and a few rare examples of Bulgari’s all-diamond Art Deco work.


Bulgari mirror, circa 1962, on display at the Kremlin Museum.

Most of the collection, however, was en route to Moscow for “Bulgari: Tribute to Femininity” at the Kremlin Museum. Five hundred artifacts will be on display through January 13, including Anna Magnani’s cocktail ring and Elizabeth Taylor’s coin necklace, sapphire pendant, and emerald brooch, plus several pieces specially commissioned by Taylor during the filming of Cleopatra. (Taylor is pictured above wearing a Bulgari Tremblant brooch, given to her by her fourth husband Eddie Fisher.)

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Also on view are pieces whose owners remain anonymous but that represent milestones and even revelations about Bulgari’s history: whimsical (and, according to Boscaini, “highly unusual”) animal figurine brooches from the 1960s; a series of diamond en tremblant brooches that are of a greater delicacy than one usually associates with Bulgari.

“It is fascinating to see the craftsmanship and how it evolves,” Boscaini says. “We have 60,000 sketches, and we don’t know whether they all have been made. Some are just studies. Our records go back only about 25 years. We see a sketch or we see an image of a jewel, and we think, Does it still exist? Has it been sold? Has it been destroyed?”

The quest then begins. Newspaper ads sometimes yield treasures. One request placed in a Middle Eastern newspaper lured a long-sought piece out of hiding. “How,” asked the man who called the number listed, “did you ever get a picture of my necklace?” And Boscaini meticulously monitors auctions.


An emerald, ruby, sapphire, and diamond Bulgari necklace from the 1960s.

“My dream,” she says, “is to discover pieces from the collection of a particular Italian socialite. She had a beautiful collection of Bulgari, and she and her husband created a private trust that I believe owns several masterpieces from the 1950s and ’70s. About a year and a half ago I spotted a brooch in an auction catalog that is a clue that it is not all in the hands of the foundation.”

Boscaini has her own set of Holy Grails. “We created a sautoir of a carved Buddha. I know one is in the hands of a private collector, but I suspect there are one or two more—I have seen pictures. And there is a Serpenti with a huge emerald cabochon on its head that we have been searching for. This is one of those mission impossibles.”

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This story appears in the November 2018 issue of Town & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Stellene Volandes
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