Star power glamour is the order of the day at the National Gallery of Victoria where the exhibition Italian Jewels: Bvlgari Style, now on display, presents as a riot of colour, dazzling love jewellery that remains both a changing and eternal form of human expression.
Lucia Boscaini, Bulgari Brand and Heritage Curator who was on hand to guide us around remarked that the exhibition “… showcases the glamour of a Golden Age of cinema and design, and represents Bvlgari’s constant experimentation and inimitable aesthetic codes.” Boscaini said.
The theme of revival is one of the most re-occurring motifs in Italian history, ignited by imagination.
In an ongoing evolution today designers have expanded Bvlgari’s ability to influence both fashion trends and global culture, while boosting the Italian economy.
It seems entirely appropriate to honour the Graeco-Roman tradition as you enter the exhibition as the first thing you see is a stunning array of emerald and diamond jewellery from the personal collection of the late great film star Elizabeth Taylor.
The stunning platinum set emerald and diamond jewels on display, include her necklace with pendant-brooch, a stunning ring 1961, a Colombian emerald brooch with earrings, 1963 and her emerald and diamond tremblant brooch 1960 in her hair.
Her fifth husband Richard Burton once remarked, “The only word Elizabeth knows in Italian is Bvlgari”, their boutique a discovery made when they were both in Rome for 215 days as she filmed the movie Cleopatra (1964).
The eternal city lured a great many people to take a Roman Holiday in the three decades following World War II.
Emeralds have had a great appeal to many famous Italians, including the Roman Emperor Nero, who viewed the games at the Coliseum through a large emerald.
It was all about showing off his status, wealth and power as he shaded his eyes from the glare of the sun and so we could say he invented sunglasses.
As style choices for costume changed through the centuries, so did the fashion for love jewellery the penultimate accessory for personal adornment prized for its craftsmanship and for the value of their components as well.
Precious metals, precious and semi precious stones, pearls, corals, enamels, vitreous pastes and ceramics during its history of creation jewellery has been admired for its decorative function and worn as a sign of social rank.
During the last fifty years of the nineteenth century in fashionable jewellery shops near the Spanish Steps at Rome experienced goldsmiths embraced an interest in the classical age and a revival of Italian historical styles using motifs and decorative symbolism
Sotir Boulgaris a Greek silversmith with a shop at Paramythia in Epirus, Greece arrived at Rome in 1884.
He had already mastered the skills of drawing, engraving, chasing, casting and enamelling and was determined to forge greater fame and fortune for his family.
He opened his second store on the Via Sistina where he produced outstanding and elaborate allegories of love.
Bvlgari remained there until 1905 when he opened his flagship store on the stylish Via dei Condotti when his sons Constantino and Giorgio joined the business.
Following World War II Bvulgari opened stores in New York, Geneva, Monte-Carlo and Paris and enjoyed adding international film stars such as Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor to their clientele.
There is a stunning selection of jewellery favouring the use of gold and coins.
These were mainly fashionable in the 70’s, although one stunning choker number was attracting a great deal of admiration from visitors at the preview, noting it was a piece they would wear now.
A favourite group of jewels studded with turquoises were also grabbing the limelight.
Then there were the evening purses made of gold!
There is no doubt that characters from the movies generate and inspire fashionable change. Many of the pieces feature the cabochon cut, including a stunning necklace produced in 1967 featuring emerald, ruby, sapphires and diamonds set in gold, which is now part of the Bvlgari Heritage collection.
As well as the world of make believe they are also involved in the world of costume, which has fashioned its folds and foibles to suit style statements for years.
Created by acclaimed designers and jewellers over the centuries, jewellery given in love reflects a multitude of personal messages and meanings.
Especially when worn to mark an occasion or to showcase status and style.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016