In 1986, pop singer Madonna released a video for her song, “Papa Don’t Preach,” wherein she wore a black t-shirt with the slogan, “Italians Do It Better.” To Italians around the world, this was no surprise because they’re familiar with their long and storied history and are quite proud of what their country has willingly offered the world over centuries.
From the most recognizable names in art and fashion to the most popular foods the planet has ever known, Italy has proven to be the epicenter of all things beautiful. Prada, Valentino, Armani, and Versace are names synonymous with Europe’s “boot,” as are Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli. But a journey through northern Italian cities such as Valenza, Turin, Vicenza, and of course, Milan, will show another side of Italy sometimes forgotten; it’s the ability to produce some of the finest artisanal gold jewelry ever created. And one of the most recognizable high-end jewelry brands to come out of Italy in the last one-hundred years is, without a doubt, Buccellati.
In the mid-1800s, an Italian goldsmith named Contardi Buccellati crafted jewelry at his shop on Via Degli Orafi in Milan (known today as Via Orefici, or “Goldsmith’s Street”). Mario Buccellati revived the family tradition, and in 1919, opened the first Buccellati boutique under the name “Mario Buccellati” on Largo Santa Margherita in Milan, adjacent to the world-renowned La Scala theatre. Legend states that while exhibiting at Madrid’s 1920 Exhibition, Buccellati became quite upset when a potential buyer asked for a discount on one of his meticulously designed makeup compacts, tossing it out of a window after passionately stating that he was not a “tradesman.” According to this story, buyers flocked to see his work the following day, making Buccellati the talk of the fair.
In the years following his first boutique’s opening, Mario Buccellati became known as the “Prince of Goldsmiths” in Italy, opening new shops in Rome and Florence. In 1951, Buccellati opened his first American showroom in New York, and just three years later, he christened a corner boutique on Manhattan’s famed 5th Avenue.
The popularity of Buccellati has remained steady since the mid-nineteenth century, with the brand eventually opening additional boutiques in Paris, London, Moscow, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Capri, Aspen, and other major cities aside from Milan and New York. The brand is also sold in the United States in several Neiman Marcus locations and high-end jewelry retailers located in cities known for their tourism.
Today, there is no twentieth-century jewelry manufacturer that is quite as recognizable as Buccellati, which is largely due to their impeccable craftsmanship and distinct finishing techniques.
Bringing a Logo to Life
The Opera collection by Buccellati focuses on the brand’s iconic logo. The inspiration for the logo stems from the Italian Renaissance, where the simple repetition of asymmetrical design could create astounding visual pleasure, particularly in architecture.
In this collection, the logo motif is clearly a mainstay in every elegantly crafted jewelry piece while still offering a unique look to each sub-collections under its umbrella. For example, in the Opera Gold collection, a necklace is crafted to show the motif being repeated while equally separated by a gold chain in between. In the Opera High Jewelry collection, we see the logo represented multiple times in various sizes on one of Buccellati’s famed gold and diamond cuff bracelets. And in Opera Full Pavé, each of the logos is embellished in natural white diamonds set pavé style, whether they be rings, earrings, or necklaces.
A New Form of Operatic Beauty
The newest member of the Buccellati Opera family combines a design staple seen in some of the brand’s other collections – the Buccellati “Tulle” – with the logo-inspired Opera collection, presented now as Opera “Tulle.”
In this latest sub-collection, the logo element is set with gemstones such as onyx and mother-of-pearl or decorated with rich colored enamels. These embellishments serve as a backdrop to the lace-like metalwork Buccellati has become known for – the “Tulle” – which allows the colorful backgrounds to leak through in an almost stained-glass type way.
What’s most non-aesthetically impressive about the Opera “Tulle” collection is its relative affordability. Buccellati realizes that not every customer is the same, and in doing so, they are offering a viable option to a millennial or even a Gen Z customer who may be buying their first piece of Buccellati jewelry while making sure their longtime collectors are presented with more ornate, or even elaborate couture-like designs.
The Opera “Tulle” collection includes rings, sautoirs, flexible bracelets, bangle bracelets, drop earrings, and stud-like button earrings. All jewelry items in the new collection are available both with and without diamonds.
Whether Buccellati is today where Mario Buccellati wanted the brand to be when he opened that first boutique in Milan back in 1919 is unknown, but what the company has been able to do in the over one hundred years since that day remains current. They’ve done so without losing any parts of themselves.
Their brand DNA is represented in every piece they manufacture, whether in silver or 18K gold or platinum. All of their jewelry is still made proudly in Italy, and they employ some of the finest metalsmiths, engravers, and stone setters in the world. When one holds a piece of Buccellati jewelry, it’s easy to know that piece is special. There is a weight to their pieces that cannot be duplicated or even vaguely replicated, though many over the years have tried. The craftsmanship is exquisite. The gemstones are of the finest quality. And the finishing is hands down, the icing on the cake.
To own a piece of Buccellati jewelry is to own a piece of history; it’s to own a piece of generations of artisans who knew that to do something special – truly special – one mustn’t rush. But to own a piece of Buccellati jewelry is also to own Italy, and the Italians have always been happy to share their beauty and secrets with the rest of the world.