A 14.14-carat pink spinel takes pride of place on the Bulgari Diva necklace designed for its recent retrospective in Tokyo – but the gemstone should, by right, have been 20 per cent larger. Speaking at the Bulgari Ginza Tower in Tokyo, the Italian luxury brand’s creative director, Lucia Silvestri, revealed that some three carats of the pink gem had been shaved off to achieve the perfect shape.

Elaborating on the jewel at the centre of the palm-sized, kimonoinspired pendant, Silvestri says: “At the beginning, it was cushion-shaped. But we wanted it to be rounder, so we recut it and made the surface a little more cabochon-like.” No matter that the cutting process led to a threecarat drop in its weight.

“Now it’s perfect,” says Silvestri, beaming. “The (spinel) looks brilliant and liquid because of the cut.”

Visitors to the The Art of Bulgari: 130 Years of Italian Masterpieces held at the Tokyo National Museum would have been convinced of the Italian company’s dedication to doing right by the sizeable, colourful jewels that adorn its high jewellery.

On display were some 250 dazzling designs created by the Roman jeweller over more than a century. The exhibition took the viewer through various stages of the brand’s history, such as 1970s’ eclecticism and the popularity of opulent styles in the 1980s.

Jewellery pieces weren’t the only designs that came under the spotlight: With timepieces dating back to the early 1930s, Bulgari also celebrated its watchmaking knowhow. A section of the exhibition was dedicated to its most iconic timepiece collection, Bulgari Bulgari. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the collection’s most distinctive feature is – as its name suggests – the repeated engraved logo on each watch bezel.

(RELATED: The Peak’s article on the Bulgari brothers)

Elaborating on the aim of the exhibition, Silvestri says: “I hope visitors will understand that Bulgari has always been contemporary and innovative. From the beginning, it was creative in using different-coloured gems and cabochons (shaped and polished gemstones that are not faceted), and it’s innovative today in its (unusual) combination of gems and use of materials.”

The bold and colourful style that has become Bulgari’s trademark, while simply aesthetically distinctive today, was nothing short of unconventional back in the early 20th century, when many Roman jewellery makers adhered to the diamond-focused, lighter Parisian style of design. Distinctively outstanding even today, the Bulgari aesthetic does not date: One of the exhibits was a gold necklace from 1967 – comprising cabochon-cut emeralds, rubies, sapphires and diamonds, the bib necklace was worn to stunning effect by actress Keira Knightley at the 2006 Academy Awards.

But the brand’s most enduring celebrity icon is, no doubt, the late actress Elizabeth Taylor. Singling out a diamond sautoir – or long necklace – with a 65-carat Burmese sapphire that Taylor’s husband, actor Richard Burton, gifted her in 1972, Silvestri says: “That’s my favourite piece because of the sugar-loaf sapphire (a sapphire with a smooth and rounded finish that rises to a peak in the centre). When you touch it, you can feel the velvet (texture). You can see inside it, and it’s gorgeous. It shows craftmanship and creativity, while being contemporary and timeless.”


Four brilliant milestone markers at the Bulgari retrospective



Silvestri took inspiration from “the colours of a Japanese kimono” when creating this necklace for the Tokyo retrospective. The pink gold necklace is set with a 14.14-carat spinel, a 1.13 brilliant-cut diamond, jade, chalcedony, 16.03 carats’ worth of pave diamonds, mother-of-pearl and coral elements.



Eclectic and elegant, this long necklace features a sugarloaf cabochon Burmese sapphire weighing 65 carats. Geometric shapes, decorated with brilliant-cut diamonds and sapphires, decorate the geometric motifs of the long chain. The pendant can be detached and worn as a brooch.



Even women who usually recoil at the sight of snakes can’t get enough of Bulgari’s Serpenti pieces, which first took the form of sinuous bracelet-watches that coil around the wrist. Since then, the serpent motif – often featuring enamelled scales and gems for eyes – has been adapted to necklaces, bags and belts.



This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Bulgari Bulgari, which features the highly recognisable bezel twice engraved with the house’s logo. Inspired by the inscriptions on ancient Roman coins, the first Bulgari Roma (the precursor to the Bulgari Bulgari) watch was a limited-edition digital timepiece gifted to the brand’s 100 most important clients.