The artistic force behind Bulgari’s illustrious high jewelry collections, creative director Lucia Silvestri finds new inspiration in the bold beauty of Rome.
I t was an early morning in Rome when an idea came to Lucia Silvestri, creative director of Bulgari. Silvestri, a native of the eternal city, was already familiar with its famed architecture and place in the pantheon of art history; and yet, as she explored the quiet city at dawn, Baroque masterpieces seemed to emerge at each corner. Captivated, Silvestri resolved to craft a jewelry collection inspired by the beauty of Rome – and Bulgari’s birthplace.
In 2020, the Barocko collection was born. The jewels embodied the exuberant era – a period of daring innovation and remarkable artistry. Take for example Bulgari’s platinum, ruby and diamond ‘Rosso Caravaggio’ Necklace, a spectacular piece that pays respect to Caravaggio, an artist who was among the first to experiment with the dramatic color, depth, light and shadow that came to define the Baroque style. In honor of Barocko, Sotheby’s is partnering with Bulgari to present our marquee livestream auction and the event Art Voices: From Bernini to Bulgari this The Beauty of the BaroqueMasters Week.
Here, we sit down with Silvestri to appreciate Rome’s unparalleled splendor and learn more about Bulgari’s new collection.
How did you begin at Bulgari?
My arrival to Bulgari was a lucky coincidence. I applied for a maternity replacement position while I was studying biology and the Bulgari brothers saw the passion and harmony I have for gems. They supported, guided and taught me so much during my tenure.
Since the beginning, and especially since my appointment as the brand’s creative director, my goal has always been to innovate while still emphasizing Bulgari’s DNA.
How long have you lived in Rome?
I’m from Rome. I was born here, and I have lived here all my life. Rome is my muse and my home at the same time.
How did the concept behind your new collection Barocko first come to you?
For the Barocko Collection, as for all the high jewelry collections, the primary inspirations are the gems and Rome – both of which have been muses for the brand for over 130 years. As the name of the collection suggests, Barocko is rooted in the marvel of the “Barocco” art movement of the 1600s – drawing inspiration from the great artists of the time such as Bernini, Caravaggio and Borromini. During that time, Baroque art was a disruptive revolution, so we rewrote the Baroque aesthetic codes into the contemporary spirit of Bulgari, giving Barocko an innovative yet timeless spirit.
What are your favorite landmarks in Rome?
Rome is a Baroque city par excellence; it is filled with extraordinary spots. The city’s most iconic Baroque landmarks are apparent in the dramatic grandeur and lightness that characterizes our collection. Of particular influence was Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers, Borromini’s Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone, the Horti Farnesiani complex on Palatino Hill and the bronze statue of Archangel Michael that is located on the top of Castel Sant’Angelo.
What are a few of your most beloved artworks that are housed in Rome’s museums and churches?
My most beloved works of art in Rome can be found in one museum that, in my opinion, is the best museum in the world: Galleria Borghese. Each time I visit the Galleria Borghese I discover something new and each visit is a journey through the history of Rome. I always find innumerable artworks that continue to inspire my everyday creative work.
How do you approach designing a line of jewelry – which comes first, the gemstone or the design?
It depends on what I am creating. There are two processes: the first one starts from the stones; they are a primary source of inspiration and they guide the creations. The second process begins when diamonds are the protagonists. In the latter case, I start working from an idea, from the design.
In both processes I am in a constant dialogue with the design team, and there is a continuous collaboration and exchanging of ideas to reach a perfect result. It is fundamental that the gems, the creativity and the craftsmanship are in total harmony and fully complement each other in bringing a Bulgari jewel to life.
When you’re sourcing gemstones, what are you usually looking for?
When I begin a search, I never know what kind of gemstones I will find. There are so many beautiful gifts of nature to discover, and each is always a unique and special surprise. Nowadays the search is very important as gemstones are rarer and in higher demand than ever before.
What was it like finding gemstones for the Barocko collection in particular?
The five outstanding Colombian emeralds in the Barocko Green Dream necklace were selected from several different places around the world, which took over a year to complete. The ruby in the Rosso Caravaggio’s necklace took months to find – the perfect stone had to feature the right Caravaggio shade of red with the right cut. I had spent almost one year searching for the perfect stone with the right shade of red and a “fire” inside. Finally, we found a gem with great potential, whose color and clarity were exactly what we were looking for. We then cut the gem according to Bulgari aesthetic codes, intensifying its elegance and brilliance – resulting in a magnificent piece.
Do you have a favorite piece from the new collection and what sparked its creation?
One of the highlights and most complex pieces in the Barocko collection is the Rosso Caravaggio, a necklace that required 1,500 hours to complete. Built around the exceptional nature of a rare ruby sourced in Mozambique, it succeeds in conferring a cutting-edge flair to a timeless jewel. This outstanding piece with its distinctive red color and the alluring juxtaposition of light and shadow immediately recalls Caravaggio’s striking artistic style. Another of Caravaggio’s artistic signatures – evoked by the necklace’s ruby – is the distinctive use of the color red, employed to express power and intensity, to capture attention, or to confer a symbolic meaning. Embodying modern versatility, it also hides a sophisticated mechanism that enables a wearer to obtain three detachable necklaces for multiple styling options.