Marina B. (1930 – ) Marina B.’s official website accurately describes her as, “… one of the most important women in jewelry of our time.”
She was born with one of the most famous surnames in the jewelry world. After leaving the Bulgari family’s famed Maison in 1976 to launch Marina B., she created a unique style that became world-renown for being both bold and timeless. Rich, opulent, and very contemporary, Marina invented her own gemstone cuts in addition to reinventing many others. She is also the only female designer with roots in the history of Italian jewelry making.
She successfully opened her first showroom in Geneva in 1978 which led to boutiques in Milan, Paris, New York, and a worldwide clientele. Marina B’s modern vision and creative excellence is said to have inspired a first generation of women to purchase jewels for themselves.
The thing that made Marina B designs groundbreaking in its time and what makes them a product of the modern era is the use of color: 18k yellow and black gold is matched with an array of colored gemstones. Diamonds are also a strong part of her designs but are used sparingly, often as contrast to the colored gold and gemstones in pavé patterns. While the jewelry is certainly Italian, Marina’s inspirations are broad and include the regal look of Middle Eastern influence and the detailed patterns of Asian design. She also created memorable Art Deco pieces.
Bulgari patriarch, Giorgio, had three sons Paolo, Gianni and Nicola who took over the House’s management in 1927. When the third generation of Bulgari children entered the business (Giorgio’s sons, Paolo and Nicola, and Constantino’s daughters, Anna and Marina), the firm’s ambitions changed. No longer following French styles, Bulgari instead created its own.
After Giorgio died in 1966, his son Gianni led the company as co-chief executive with Marina. In 1976, Marina left the family business because, it is said, that she did not like the direction in which the House was going and was eager to explore her own adventurous and ambitious spirit.
When Marina B. started her jewelry brand, she was determined to create her own approach to business and a signature look. Her designs featured contoured gold and black enamel inlay, gemstones mounted on steel or black gold, and recognizable motifs, like rounded triangle cuts on gems to resemble a lotus bud or inverted heart.
In 1978 Marina B created her iconic ‘Onda’ and ‘Pneu’ collections. Each featured the innovative design of spring- mounting, with a reimagined use of pave diamonds and interchangeable features. In 1980, Marina developed her iconic (stone) cut, ‘The Chestnut’. Halfway between the shape of a triangle and a pear, the motif is now considered her classic signature shape in both gemstone and metal.
In 1984, Marina debuted the ‘Shirine’ collection one of the many high jewelry collections that encompassed the signature aspects of Marina B designs: boldness, color, and quality.
In 1986, Marina B opened her namesake boutique on Madison Avenue in New York City. Finally, in 1989, Marina B introduced the ‘Atomo’ and ‘Cardan’ Collections, incorporating unthreaded beads, a Marina B trademark.
She sold her brand in 1999 to the Saudi Arabian sheik of Jeddah, Ahmed Fitaihi. The collection included hundreds of her original sketches, moldings and vintage jewelry.
A little more than a decade later, in 2010, it was acquired by Paul Lubetsky, CEO of Windsor Jewelers, a buyer and seller of both estate and contemporary jewelry in New York. He purchased the brand and all its belongings from Fitaihi. The company then reproduced jewelry based on the original designs and molds using the same materials.
From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, the voluminous, bold, and colorful jewelry of Marina B was the choice of movie stars like Sophia Loren and international society women and those found on best-dressed lists.
In July 2017, Guy Bedarida bought and became the majority owner and Creative Director of the legendary brand. Bedarida was formerly creative director at John Hardy from 1998 to 2015 and also worked at Van Cleef & Arpels and Boucheron.
After he sold his stake in John Hardy, he told the National Jeweler publication that when he left his position at Hardy, he was eager to return to the world of high jewelry. But, rather than starting his own business, he wanted to find a “sleeping beauty” to revamp and was thrilled when he discovered that the Marina B. collection was for sale.
The first lines from the collections under Bedarida’s management were shown 2017 in Las Vegas at the Couture jewelry show. The majority of the pieces incorporated the best qualities of fine Italian design such as big, bold statements that attract attention without being overpowering. Many of the pieces were designed in another time and defy trends. Bedarida brought the brand into the 21st Century with beautifully fitting collections that continue to embrace Marina’s innovative aesthetic.
The current collections are comprised of bracelets, rings, earrings, and necklaces, and include:
Trisola that embodies quintessential Italian jewelry and features the iconic Tubogas. The dynamic three-dimensional form crafted in 18K Gold, wraps around the wrists and fingers and is accented with tips of diamonds, emeralds, rubies, or sapphires. Made exclusively by hand in the unique Marina B cut, the highly engineered internal spring mechanism allows for increased flexibility, while insuring sublime finishes. This assertive collection is a true representation of the powerful personality of the Marina B brand.
Using Trisola as inspiration, Bedarida interpolated his distinctive handwriting to create a forward looking first collection, Trisolina. Hand-made in Italy in 18K gold and diamonds, Trisolina marks the evolution of the Marina B brand.
In this collection, dynamic silhouettes create a sense of movement across the body, framing features and highlighting curves in sensual harmony. The innovation meets traditional craftsmanship in the creation of its fluid internal springs in clean, lithe titanium finishes. Bedarida also introduces chokers, a reference to the very best from the Marina B archives. This alluring collection is the epitome of life in jewels.
Luna is the second collection by Bedarida. Inspired by Marina B’s works of discreet indulgence as well as 80’s Italian architecture, this modern take on the brand’s black gold classics features titanium and strong graphic lines. Contrasting geometry with glamour through precise hints of diamond pave, this collection is as subtle as it is seductive.
The re-vamped line also offers High Jewelry and One-Of-A-Kind Collections. Price points range from $8,000 up to $3 million.
Under Bedarida’s ownership, the brand has focused on boosting distribution in the U.S. market through one-of-a-kind and exclusive collections with Saks and Neiman Marcus as well as establishing new independent retailing partners. The first new lines of product became available for spring and fall 2018.
In a September 2018 interview with The New York Times, Bedarida was asked if had ever met Ms. Bulgari who now lives in Monte Carlo.
“I went to visit her twice. She is now [nearly] 90 I and … [came] for our meeting … wearing sneakers and a down jacket and said, “You know, Guy, I want to be comfortable now. I don’t want to wear high heels.” That showed me this woman is really modern and knows the new way to live which I want to reflect in Marina B jewelry.”
Renowned for her iconoclastic take on jewelry, from unusual mixes of colors to original cuts to convertible designs, Marina Bulgari is a female designer who designs for women, a tradition that Bedarida carries on with unusual mixes of colors to original cuts to convertible designs.