Buccellati: Milan’s Family Jewelers
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines timeless as “not restricted to a particular time or date.” It seems an appropriate word to describe the Buccellati company, makers of fine jewelry and silver. The firm’s elegant innovations span nearly a century, and although Gangsu Gangtai Group acquired a majority share of the company in August of 2017, the Buccellati family remains at the helm of the evolution of the brand’s design and meaning, appealing both to consumers with traditional tastes and younger buyers with a more adventurous spirit.
This two-pronged approach in which old and new are blended, goes back to 1919, when founder Mario Buccellati launched his first jewelry store in Milan, Italy. He took the skills he learned as a young apprentice and fused conventional techniques with his revolutionary approach to designing jewelry and decorative objects.
Inspired by Nature: The company’s Animalier Collection features 28 brooches shaped as animals and set with baroque pearls. The menagerie includes monkeys, scorpions, camels and rabbits, among other creatures.
Flash forward 95-plus years, and Buccellati family members, including Mario’s great-granddaughter Lucrezia – the company’s first female jewelry designer – are hard at work creating Buccellati’s trendy contemporary lines. They include iPhone cases – their diamond-studded gold model retails at around $208,000 – and the firm’s “Timeless Blue” project, which brings together impressionist artworks and modern jewelry designs.
Many of the same tried and trusted techniques, attention to detail and appreciation for beauty in many facets are woven into the fabric of this familial firm of luxury design.
Innovation in every generation
Although Mario’s uncommon and exquisite creations brought global attention and acclaim in the first quarter of the 20th century, he was not the first Buccellati in the trade. In the mid-18th century, Contardo Buccellati was a goldsmith in Milan. Incidentally, the street where his business was located is now known as Via Orefici, or Goldsmith’s Street.
The “Buccellati style,” as it is known, harkens back to Mario’s development of an engraving technique that renders an unmistakable textured appearance. Today, Buccellati artisans use those same techniques, as well as many of the same types of tools, including a steel chisel for engraving, a bowl of wax for making a mold, and a wood, steel and string device to drill holes. The legendary engraving methods are said to give the appearance of materials such as linen, silk and tulle.
Those early traditions and techniques found eager students in four of Mario’s five sons, Frederico, Gianmaria, Luca, and Lorenzo. In various published articles, Gianmaria recalled working as an apprentice with his father at the age of 15 and having an interest in the jewelry trade since early childhood.
The Buccellati brothers inherited the company following the death of their father in 1965. Together they operated the business until the mid-1970s, at which point they divided the company. Brothers Gianmaria and the late Luca worked together to develop the Buccellati operation in the United States, and Gianmaria owned the Buccellati production and laboratories, according to an article in Departures magazine. The Buccellati name is used by operations owned by Gianmaria, while those operated by other Buccellati brothers employ variations of the family name.
Buccellati Locations: The firm has five boutiques within the U.S. (New York, Beverly Hills, Calif.; Chicago, Bal Harbor, Florida; and Aspen, Colorado), six in Italy, and one each in London, Paris, and Moscow. Plus, there are countless retailers, corner shops, and shops within shops, around the world.
Gianmaria’s children joined him in business, his son Andrea and daughter Maria Cristina in jewelry design, and Gino as overseer of the Buccellati silver factory. As mentioned earlier, the Buccellati legacy continues, with Andrea’s daughter Lucrezia joining the firm in 2014, around the same time that Gianmaria retired.
Lucrezia Buccellati’s vision and impact are represented in the company’s innovative Opera line of jewelry, each piece displaying a flower motif. Speaking about the Opera line, Ms. Buccellati told the New York Times, “Opera is a first step to show the new Buccellati for a younger generation who wants things light and more affordable that they can wear every day.”
With the “Timeless Blue” jewelry range, Buccellati drew influence from masterpieces of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. A percentage of the sales from this line of jewelry generated during the week of its debut in March of 2015 was donated to Save Venice, a project to underwrite the cost of restoring art and monuments in Venice. The artists and works represented in the line include: Claude Monet (Storm on the Coast of Belle-lle, 1886), Pierre Bonnard (Two Vases of Flowers, 1930), Homer Winslow (Light Blue Sea at Prout’s Neck, circa 1890s), Mikhail Larionov (The Spider’s Web – a double-sided painting, circa 1900-1910), and Odilon Redon (The Fall of Phaeton, circa 1900).
The Romanza collection of bridal rings feature seven designs inspired by women in literary tales. They include: Beatrice Portinari, the beloved of Dante Alighieri; Titania from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Bradamante, a female Christian knight appearing in Ariosto’s Orlando furioso.
While Buccellati may have started as a local Milan jewelry studio, its gilt-edged name is now recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious brands. It continues to embrace the new while respecting the traditions of generations past.