Buccellati (Est. 1919 – ) The Italian jewelry manufacturer, Buccellati, now nearing its one hundredth year in existence has historical roots that go back even further. The Buccellati family first entered the jewelry trade in the mid-eighteenth century when Contardo Buccellati worked as a goldsmith in Milan.
In 1903, at age 12, Mario Buccellati (1891- 1967) continued the family tradition by beginning an apprenticeship at Milan’s prestigious Beltrami & Beltrami. In 1919, Mario took over that firm and re-named it Buccellati. It did not take long for the firm to gain acclaim and become famous for its textural gold jewelry and superb silver objects.
Shortly before his death in early 2015, Mario’s son, Gianmaria Buccellati, commented on his family’s history and beliefs, “The Buccellati concept focuses on beauty, art, class and the traditions of the past… Our jewels are entirely hand-made, with love, patience, and time by the best craftsmen in Italy… Our philosophy has never changed and … represents the essence of our work.”
According to an entry in the Jewelry Encyclopedia, Mario first exhibited his creations at Madrid’s 1920 Exposition and caught the public’s attention when he hurled an expensive compact out a window after a woman asked for a discount, shouting at her, “I am not a tradesman!”
The next day, hundreds turned up to look at his booth because they wanted to see the unknown jeweler’s pieces. Everything sold. Shortly, thereafter Mario was invited to exhibit his work at a solo show where Spanish aristocrats (including Spain’s royal family) eagerly crowded his display. The King and Queen became lifelong clients.
Four years after Mario Buccellati opened his first jewelry boutique on Largo Santa Margherita in Milan (1919), his friend and client, Gabriele d’Annunzio, ordered several jewels to give to his lovers and assorted silver pieces to bestow on friends.
In 1929, the first of Mario’s five sons, Gianmaria was born in Milan. It was during this period and the years that followed that the House of Buccellati gained a loyal following in Italy and abroad. Poet Gabriele D’Annunzio dubbed Mario, “The Prince of Goldsmiths” and ordered pieces by the hundreds. As Mario’s five sons came of age, four of the five (Frederico, Gianmaria, Luca, and Lorenzo) entered the business.
The period from the 1920’s to the 1960’s established the most notable accomplishments of the House of Buccellati. These pieces are bold and instantly recognizable with a style that references the great goldsmiths of the Renaissance. The most distinctive aspect of Buccellati’s work is its rich textural quality.
Mario Buccellati was the first to introduce the technique of texture-engraving. The most renowned engraving techniques are rigato (parallel lines cut onto the surface of metal to obtain a sheen effect), telato (texture, obtained by fine cross-hatched lines, which imitates linen surface), segrinato (engraving in every possible directions, overlapping textures), ornato (decoration, based on nature forms: animals, leaves, flowers), and modellato (the most delicate engraving technique that consists of reproducing several designs chiseled in three dimensions on minuscule scale, and mainly used for the decorations of borders.)
Pieces are created to look and feel like silk, damask, tulle, lace, or linen. The use of mixed metals (silver and gold, platinum and gold) is also typical. If gemstones are used at all, they are often unusual: large cabochons, carved emeralds and rubies, rose-cut diamonds. Naturalistic motifs are also common. The pieces are bold and instantly recognizable as Buccellati.
In 1949, Pope Pius XII commissioned Mario Buccellati to create an icon for Princess Margaret to mark the first visit of a British Royal to Vatican City. This work of art can be seen in the Chianciano Art Museum in Tuscany
In the early years, Buccellati opened new stores in Rome (1925) and Florence (1929). In 1951, Buccellati became first Italian jewelry designer to have a location on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
The third quarter of the 20th Century was a productive one for the House despite Mario’s death in 1967. Sons Lorenzo and Frederico looked after the flagship stores in Italy. Luca and Gianmaria assumed control of stores in the United States and expanded to other locations in Hong Kong, (1970), Japan (1972), Monte Carlo (1976), and Paris (1979).
According to the Buccellati official website, in 1973 Gianmaria, with a group of professional colleagues, founded the Italian Gemological Institute (IGI) that elected him President for the next 25 years.
In 1978, at age 20, Andrea started working in the Company with his father and learned many atelier secrets. By 1979, Gianmaria Buccellati had opened a flagship store in Paris, on place Vendôme that confirmed his and the House’ status among the most prestigious jewelers in the world.
Even though the firm splits its oversight, a distinctive look remains. In addition to the pieces Mario created (including the compacts made from the 1920’s to the 1950’s), the jeweled objects created by his son Gianmaria in the 1970’s and 1980’s show the same stylistic intent. These include intricate chalices, candlesticks, amphorae, and exceptional chess sets. Buccellati silver hollow ware and flatware are also highly prized and collectible.
Museums caught the Buccellati bug at the end of the 20th century with an exhibition called, “The Art of Buccellati” (San Francisco, 1995) that traveled to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto in 1996.
In 2000, another exhibition “Buccellati: Art in Gold, Silver and Gems” opened at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. and featured a retrospective of Mario and Gianmaria Buccellati’s work.
It was during the latter exhibition that the opera “Viaggio in Italia” (Trip to Italy) composed by the Italian composer and cellist Giovanni Sollima, made its debut at Carnegie Hall in New York commissioned by and dedicated to Gianmaria Buccellati.
From 2001 through 2015, Gianmaria, his brothers, and sons continued to expand the House’s inventory and brand recognition. In 2001, Gianmaria launched his first watch collection in Geneva during the SIHH exhibition. In 2004, Buccellati organized the world preview in Milan of the Animalier Collection composed of 28 animal brooches created around extraordinary baroque pearls.
In 2008, the exhibition “Buccellati, Timeless Art” opened at The State Museum of Moscow becoming the first ever exhibition at the Kremlin dedicated to a living jeweler.
Also that year Gianmaria created the “Gianmaria Buccellati Foundation” on which he bestowed his private collection of ornamental cups and jewels, some of his father’s creations, and drawings made by both of them.
In 2010, Gianmaria designs a collection of Cocktail Rings. In a traveling collection seen throughout the world for one year, it excited and re-ignited enthusiasm among admirers of the unique Buccellati style.
Around March 2013, the Buccellati Group finalized an arrangement with Clessidra – an Italian equity fund – to sell the majority stake of the company. Gianmaria’s sons remained actively involved in the development of the reinvigorated Company: Andrea was President, Gino managed the silverware production and daughter Maria Cristina looked after the House’s image and took over the Brand’s marketing.
In 2014, new stores opened in Bal Harbour and Seoul, Korea. At the same time, the New York boutique moved from 810 to 714 Madison Avenue, a five-story townhouse. A new seasonal store opened in Capri. A further expansion was initiated at Gump’s in San Francisco and also with a presence in the Dubai Bloomingdale’s. The year marked intense growth and renewal that combined with the entry of Lucrezia Buccellati, Andrea’s daughter, as the House’s first female designer.
Even with Gianmaria’s death in 2015 at age 86, it is safe to assume that the lineage, craftsmanship, and resiliency of the Buccellati family will continue its history of growth and creation of enigmatic works well into the future.
A 2014 Forbes article states that most [of the] items in the Buccellati catalog are still designed by the Buccellati family. Andrea Buccellati and his daughter Lucrezia continue to steward the design of the company. Andrea designs “commercial” pieces as well as the brand’s unique items which are highly prized by jewelry lovers around the world. According to the article, about 70% of the House’s profits come from unique items while the rest [is derived] from the limited number of regular items they produce each year for their boutique stores and high-end retail partners including the high-end department store, Neiman Marcus.
Buccellati has four manufacture locations, including the one in Milan. Another location is near Bologna, while the third Italian manufacture produces delicate gold items near Lake Como. There is a fourth location that produces the brand’s watches and is located in Chiasso, Switzerland near the Italian border.
In addition to the talent located at the four workshop locations, Buccellati relies on a range of specialized craftspeople and artisans to make up their external network of jewelry makers and stone setters within Italy. In all, Buccellati has about 200 people dedicated to the production of their silver and jewelry products.
Buccellati produces items with “no untouched gold.” Each surface of their jewelry is engraved. A favorite look is their signature “Rigato” engraving which uses tiny hand-applied stripes to give gold surfaces the appearance of silk fabric.
This unique look is found on many of the brand’s jewelry items including their distinctive cuffs, rings, and various luxury pieces. Other typical Buccellati visual inspirations include plants and leaves found in many traditional Italian frescoes and sea-inspired inspirations.
A favorite Buccellati style includes jewelry made with “baroque pearls” which are uniquely shaped and are non-round pearls that artists ingeniously employ to create everything from the bodies of animals to flower petals.
On the House’s website, the words of Gianmaria Buccellati are prominently displayed:
“It’s impossible for me to talk about Buccellati’s creations without acknowledging that a lot is connected to the context where our creativity was born: our beloved Italy. Our techniques are in fact borrowed from five centuries of Italian art. Many renowned artists of this country were goldsmiths before they became sculptors, painters and architects. To this heritage, which we obviously share with many other excellent Italian goldsmiths, Buccellati simply added its own inspiration and dedication.
“From father to son, in fact, we passed on technical abilities and … cultivated a habit for surprising. If I look at one of our jewels, I’m proud to know that it has been designed by a Buccellati’, and that it has been realized by hand by one of our goldsmiths.
“Creating perfect objects with techniques that are rarely used anymore and choosing to work with extraordinary stones – these are not only my father’s habits, but an eccentricity possessed by the entire family.”
Buccellati Specialties include easily recognized jewelry styles with distinct textures and engravings, hand-made jewelry, hand alloyed metals, hand engraving and stone setting that use very little machinery. Also worth noting is the silverware, silver plates, animal figurines plus one-of-a-kind jewelry items made by the House.
Compared to luxury watches and jewelry from other high-end European brands in France and Switzerland, Buccellati pricing is competitive despite the lavishness of their products.
Expect to find, in addition to their previously released boutique engagement rings, a new collection of rings designed for men looking to marry their partners. Crafted in the unique Buccellati style, these rings offer a fresh, yet vintage look that will appeal to many couples.