Izmaylovo Kremlin

The Kremlin’s Dazzling Tribute to Bulgari and Femininity

In an all-encompassing retrospective - the first of its kind at the Moscow Kremlin Museums - the Italian Maison Bvlgari presents over 400 jeweled artworks, showcasing 130 years of the brand’s innovative jewelry designs. With loans from both private collections and the Bulgari Heritage Collection, the exhibition complements the maison’s artistic evolution, emphasizing the shifting motifs throughout a century of jewelry creation. The works are displayed across two buildings in the Kremlin Museums complex, fittingly arranged in the dignified venues of the Assumption Belfry and the Patriarch’s Palace. Entitled Tribute to Femininity, the show serves its name well, as the opulent presentation features a diversity of tiaras, bangles, necklaces, and earrings.

The brand Bvlgari was founded by a Greek silversmith (b. 1859), named Sotirio Boulgaris (Bulgari). The Boulgaris family had a long tradition of silver smithing; and thus in 1881, young Sotirio migrated to Rome to further pursue the field of metalworking. Bulgari’s early experiences greatly informed the opening of his first atelier located along the via Sistina. Subsequent to building three additional storefronts on the streets of Rome, Bulgari focused his interests to jewelry, rather than silver smithing. Bulgari’s two sons, Constantino and Giorgio, later joined their father’s artistic pursuits and assumed the business after his passing in 1932. Together, along with Giorgio’s sons, the brothers developed the brand to the high-end jewelry design house it is today.

Resulting from Bvlgari’s exceptional Art Deco styles and creative use of precious stones, the brand caught the eye of legendary actresses - including Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, and Sophia Loren. Alongside the maison’s designs, the exhibition has featured jewels once worn and collected by the above mentioned icons. The exhibition is on view through January 13, 2019. Here, we take a closer look at some of Bulgari’s ingenious creations.

Six Exhibition Highlights from Tribute to Femininity

Necklace combination in platinum and diamonds, 1938

Bvlgari Heritage Collection. Image courtesy of Bvlgari, Roma.

With geometries influenced by the Art Deco movement, this necklace evokes the era in which it was created. This necklace includes over nine hundred diamonds, in a variety of differing sizes and cuts, from baguette to pear-shaped. Astonishingly, and characteristic of jewelry in the 1930s, this piece is convertible; it can be worn as a pair of bracelets, brooches, or simply a necklace. Despite the inclusion of uniform stones, this necklace is complex and extravagant, as well as understated.

Group of Bvlgari creations with magnificent colored precious stones, ca. 1960

Bvlgari Heritage Collection. Image courtesy of Bvlgari, Roma.

This group of creations is representative of the diverse forms, jewels, and colors found in the Bvlgari jewels of the 1960s. While the 1930s and 1940s featured classic, geometrical shapes, the 1960s was a clear shift for the brand’s aesthetics. Turquoise with rubies, citrines with emeralds, and sapphires in every color possible, the brand embraced the changing fashions of the time and encapsulated the contemporaneous design of the 1960s. Floral devices were especially common, as seen with the above brooches. Petals of star sapphires, rubies, and emeralds are inlaid into undulating gold bases, resulting in a dynamic jewelry quality.

Group of jewels formerly in the Elizabeth Taylor Collection, ca. 1960

Heritage Collection. Image courtesy of Bvlgari, Roma.

A champion of the Bvlgari brand, Elizabeth Taylor collected a myriad of pieces by the maison. Jewels from all decades are included in her collection, from the Art Deco geometric styles of the 1930s, to the historic Roman coins of the 1970s. Dispersed throughout the collection are non-jewelry elements, such as the turquoise encrusted mirror and the jewelry box, which is inlaid with Roman and Greek coins. Featured on the handle of the mirror is a hieroglyph of an eagle, indicative of Taylor's role as Cleopatra in Cleopatra (1963). In the exhibition, Taylor’s extensive private collection is represented throughout the display.

Serpenti bracelet in gold with jade, rubies and diamonds, 1965

Bvlgari Heritage Collection. Image courtesy of Bvlgari, Roma.

This bracelet's design was developed by Bvlgari beginning in the mid-1940s. The collection, SERPENTI, symbolizes the Greek and Roman roots of the Bulgari name, in addition to reflecting the technological jewelry advancements that occurred in the 20th century, as the creation of this bracelet required advanced gas tube technology. With this new metalworking technique, jewelers are able to inlay the emeralds, rubies, and diamonds into the hollow gold bracelet. This magnificent piece is a play on the role of a “sinful woman" or the Fall of Man. In 1962, Elizabeth Taylor filmed Cleopatra (1963) in Rome and while on break, posed wearing a similar serpent piece.

Sautoir in gold with emerald, rubies and diamonds, 1969

Bvlgari Heritage Collection. Image courtesy of Bvlgari, Roma.

This colorful, bold pendant is the result of the imaginative spirit of the 1970s. The opulent sautoir features a cabochon emerald of 300.93 carats and is hexagonal in shape, perhaps reminiscent of the Art Deco movement. Starting in the 1960s, jewels by Bulgari became colorful celebrations, a result of the brand's experimentation with the color properties of precious stones. The gemstone combinations included amethysts, colored sapphires, and citrines.

Sautoir in gold with silver coin of the Kingdom of Sicily, 1972.

Bvlgari Heritage Collection. Image courtesy of Bvlgari, Roma..

Categorized as “Monete” or “Money,” this necklace’s motif first arrived in the 1960s. The coins, originating from 300 BC to 300 AD, are the focal points of the necklace, juxtaposed with contemporary gold settings. The gold chains, like the SERPENTI bracelets, utilize the technique of gas tube technology. The coins are in reference to the Bulgari legacy, a Grecian man who created art in Rome, and then became a part of jewelry-making history.

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Tribute to Femininity, Kremlin Museums, Moscow, will be on view from 7 September 2018–13 January 2019.

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