ROME — Where else could Bulgari celebrate Aeterna, its latest high jewelry collection, if not in the Eternal City?

“It’s the first time I see the whole collection displayed together so it’s always an emotional moment,” Lucia Silvestri, the brand’s jewelry creative director, said on Monday morning at one of Rome’s most outstanding landmarks, the Baths of Diocleziano.

This was even more so because Aeterna pays tribute to Bulgari’s 140th anniversary.

“It was fundamental for me to do something special, also because I was convinced it would be my last collection,” said Silvestri, who has agreed to stay on for another year, pushing back her rumored retirement.

Whatever her future plans, she succeeded in leaving yet another indelible mark.

To celebrate the brand’s milestone, Silvestri and its artisans conceived the Serpenti Aeterna necklace, which she said was “the most precious necklace ever crafted by Bulgari.” Later that evening, brand ambassador Priyanka Chopra Jonas, in a Del Core gown, wore the necklace to attend Bulgari’s high jewelry fashion show, sitting next to fellow ambassadors Anne Hathaway, Liu Yifei, Shu Qi and Hikari Mori.

The show, which took place in the Ludovisi cloister in the Terme’s architectural complex, was styled by Carine Roitfeld and greeted by cheers when Isabella Rossellini and Carla Bruni appeared on the catwalk, following the likes of Mariacarla Boscono, Blesnya Minher and Elisabetta Dessy.

In her third year as brand ambassador, Hathaway, accompanied by her husband Adam Shulman, said the house’s anniversary was especially meaningful, underscoring how Bulgari is a “legacy and family brand, and legacy is very important to me, as is craftwork.” In her role, she “got to see the standards they [Bulgari] hold themselves to and how many jobs they create.”

Silvestri said the first sketches of the Serpenti Aeterna necklace were conceived in 2022. “We wanted to keep challenging ourselves and surprise everyone with the decision to highlight diamonds rather than colored gemstones as many would have expected from Bulgari.”

The necklace, she said, symbolizes eternity and the “ability of the brand to continue to reinvent itself.”

A rough diamond of over 200 carats was cut to create seven D flawless ultra clear and pure pear diamond drops totaling 140 carats, one for each year of the brand’s history. Adding an extra challenge, the drops were placed in a sinuous 3D wavy structure in platinum, embellished with 698 baguette diamonds weighing 61.81 carats. The back of the necklace reveals Bulgari’s signature snake symbol as a clasp. The necklace required more than 2,800 hours to complete.

The Terme di Diocleziano is considered the largest baths in ancient Rome, spanning a surface area of 13 hectares and built between 298 and 306 AD. It was “the first location” Silvestri had in mind because “it is a monumental landmark, a place like this exists only in Rome, the Eternal City that makes us dream, and there is a strong connection with the collection.”

“Serpenti Aeterna represents the pinnacle of excellence,” said — proudly — chief executive officer Jean-Christophe Babin, who clearly wanted to make a statement with the collection and the event, as Bulgari also unveiled its new high-end watches, bags and fragrances for a total of 500 pieces.

“We celebrate the very best of the brand, and the unique ability of our artisans,” he said, also highlighting their skills in creating the Serpenti Aeterna from diamonds that can add up to a cost of around 40 million euros. Calling the location “a dreamy setting,” it contributed to shine the light on Rome, which is Bulgari’s home and which allows the company to offer “the best service” possible to its clients, as they can now enjoy the full brand experience at the Bulgari Hotel in the city, opened last summer.

“The show is crucial, as the jewels are exceptionally crafted but they are even more beautiful on the women in motion, and in such an artistic context, the largest ever antique bath,” said Babin, recalling how Bulgari’s first high jewelry runway show was held in Paris in July 2016 at the Italian Embassy.

Babin said that Bulgari clients value the brand’s “distinctive identity,” and the “timeless style,” in addition to the craftsmanship and precious gems employed in the high jewelry collections, which continue to perform well, even better than other categories, with high net-worth individuals immune to inflation and other headwinds, who see high-end jewels as a long-term investment that does not lose value — “and they get to wear them and enjoy them, compared to other financial assets,” he added with a smile.

Asked about training new artisans, Babin said that he has seen an increased interest in this profession by the younger generation. “We promote the concept of ‘mani intelligenti [intelligent hands]’ because of the nobility of the craftsmanship, the human touch and genius,” he observed, adding that a third company training school is in the works.  

At the end of next year, work to double the production capacity of Bulgari’s state-of-the-art jewelry manufacturing plant in Valenza, Italy, will be completed, Babin said. The plant was already billed as the largest in Europe when it opened in 2017. Looking at 2026 and 2027, he sees tripling the production capacity. In addition, he revealed that Bulgari will expand its high jewelry atelier in Rome by moving to a new building in the EUR district, not far from the headquarters of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton sister brand Fendi, and that it will include a hospitality project.

Ahead of the show, the jewels were displayed at the Terme, sparkling against the ancient relics and statues.

The Serpenti Sapphire Echo necklace features a white gold snake with two heads, whose scales combine diamonds and buff-top sapphires, holding two pear-cut Sri Lanka sapphires, each of them weighing 37.34 carats. These gems were sourced from a pair of Bulgari earrings dating back to the 1930s that an Italian noblewoman client sold back to the Roman jeweler after having worn them for decades. The two pendants are detachable and can also be worn as earrings, in an example of transformative jewelry.

Bulgari’s Serpenti Sapphire Echo necklace.

Silvestri enthused about “giving new life to gems; sometimes this happens and it’s beautiful as there is an added sentimental value to the jewel, morphing, born again, changing skin as a snake. And this also underscores that gems are eternal.”

The Aurea Chandra is an example of how Bulgari revisits its heritage with a modern — and bold — touch. The spherical choker was inspired by the brand’s signature 1980s Chandra line, replacing the original porcelain spheres with five rows of globes in alternating pink gold and pavé-set diamonds. While the construction is impressive, the spheres are hollow, making the jewel very light on the neck.

Bulgari’s Aurea Chandra necklace.

Another example of Silvestri’s imaginative touch is Tubogas Flower of Time necklace. The designer decided to have a lotus flower engraved on a striking oval-cut 31.07 carat Zambian emerald exalted by a graphic layout of 16 buff-top rubellites and pavé-set diamonds and presented with matching earrings. “The emerald was beautiful but it needed to speak to me and to be unique. I have a passion for engraved stones but we wanted the engraving to be discreet and modern, not invasive,” she said.

The  Mosaic of Time necklace is another tribute to Rome’s history with one of the most intricate creations of 150 modules assembled to create a mosaic of diverse colors and gem cuts, in a delicate scalloped silhouette. It combines pear-shaped Paraiba tourmalines, cushion-cut pink tourmalines, turquoises, buff-top emeralds, pavé-set diamonds, and contrasting onyx and mother-of-pearl details. A coordinated ring features a striking central cushion Paraiba tourmaline surrounded by a mosaic of turquoises, onyx and 20 buff-top emeralds.

The  Bulgari Lotus Cabochon necklace is reminiscent of a sartorial collar, but also of a lotus flower and stands out with its pebble-like texture of rubellite, turquoise, emerald and amethyst cabochons set on a carpet-like gold base.

Another distinctive Bulgari jewel is the Monete Aeterna Augustus Emerald sautoir, featuring a rare imperial bronze coin, minted during the reign of Tiberius, showing the profile of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, who commissioned the building of the Ara Pacis as well as of his Mausoleum, facing the new Bulgari Hotel in Rome. This necklace is completed with 149 identical emerald beads weighing 615.04 carats, 80 buff-top emeralds, and pavé set diamonds.

Bulgari’s Monete Aeterna Augustus Emerald sautoir.

Bulgari’s fashion show was preceded by a ballet performed by Michele Satriano and Eleonora Abbagnato, the director of Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, which mixed classic and contemporary dance, and by a choreography by Sadeck Berrabah and 80 dancers.

A dinner conceived by Italian Michelin-starred chef Massimiliano Alajmo was held at the Terme’s Chiostro di Michelangelo, the legendary painter and sculptor to whom the cloister is attributed.

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