In Review

Personal links: Lucrezia Buccellati

At her Milanese family jeweller, Lucrezia Buccellati creates pieces as unique and individual as her clientele

At jewellery house Buccellati, melodic-sounding names describe signature engraving techniques. With Telato, fine lines are crosshatched to mimic the surface of linen fabrics. A tulle-like finish is achieved with Ornato, a labour-intensive method that requires Buccellati artisans to hand-bore a gold plate to create tiny hexagonal indentations in a honeycomb pattern. The Milanese brand’s Macri designs are sought after for their lustrous silken finish. Here, what resembles many spun threads is in fact a trick of the eye as the collection’s black, yellow, white or rose gold surfaces are chiselled with wispy, parallel Rigato lines.

“I love that there is work and texture to our jewellery,” says Lucrezia Buccellati. A member of the family jeweller’s fourth generation, Buccellati joined the firm in 2014. As co-creative director, she now works alongside her father Andrea. “People don’t come to Buccellati for smooth, shiny jewellery.”

To this date, many of the brand’s best-known flourishes are rooted in the biography of its founder, Mario Buccellati, and his interests in historic jewellery making, Venetian arts and the goldsmithing of the Italian Renaissance, as practised by sculptor Benvenuto Cellini among others. Says Buccellati, “All these techniques are iconic and what makes Buccellati, I think.”

A trained goldsmith, Mario Buccellati established his eponymous business in 1919, when he opened his first shop on Milan’s Largo Santa Margherita, within sight of the city’s La Scala opera house. In addition to crafting gems for Italy’s beau monde and European royal courts, Buccellati also counted Gabriele D’Annunzio among his supporters. The aristocratic scribe’s many Buccellati orders included a rock crystal necklace, which he presented as a gift to actress Eleonora Duse.

After opening storefronts in Rome and Florence, Buccellati crossed the Atlantic with his son Luca in 1952 to take over premises on Manhattan’s 5th Avenue and on Florida’s Palm Beach. Since 1979, Buccellati creations have been sold on Place Vendôme; it was the first Italian marque to open a boutique at the nerve centre of Paris’ jewel trade, alongside French marquee brands Cartier, Chaumet and Boucheron. Today, its network of stores spans the globe, with addresses in Tokyo, London and Beverly Hills.

Buccellati’s distinctive work has also been the subject of museum exhibitions, with pieces on display at Moscow Kremlin State Historical and Cultural Museum (‘Buccellati: Timeless Art’, 2008) and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, which staged ‘Buccellati: Art in Gold, Silver and Gems’ in 2000. In autumn last year, luxury conglomerate Richemont acquired the Italian jeweller.

At Buccellati, family is still centre stage. Today, Lucrezia Buccellati works in close collaboration with her father Andrea, who also acts as the brand’s honorary president.Andrea’s three siblings oversee communications (Maria Christina), VIP clients (Luca) and, until 2018, silverware production (Gino). ““My dad is very demanding and precise. I sketch, come up with an idea and then we brainstorm it,” says Buccellati of the father- daughter dynamic. “For me, inspiration comes from being around people, seeing what they wear, and going to fashion weeks with friends who are designers. They inspire me, and you feel the energy. Part of this work is being out there.”

Buccellati, who was born in Miami, is today based in the USA, where she lives between New York City, Connecticut and Long Island with her husband David Wildenstein and the couple’s two young children. A graduate of Manhattan’s in uential Fashion Institute of Technology (alumni include Calvin Klein and Carolina Herrera), she is the  rst woman to design for Buccellati; in her work, she displays an intimate knowledge of today’s jewellery client. Instead of investing in a brand’s full parure sets of matching gems including earrings, necklaces and bracelets – clients today indulge at many di erent houses. “One of the challenging things is to create a collection that you can mix with other brands, because that is what the new customer does,” says Buccellati. “Modern women, they want to mix.”

Blossom, her debut collection, cast flower garlands (gardenias, daisies) in expertly worked silver. Easy to wear, Buccellati’s  first offering translated the house’s precious codes to a modern client. At the opposite end of Blossom sits Buccellati’s work with private clients, which has produced rare one-of-a-kind gems. 

At Buccellati, the process of commissioning starts with an in-depth conversation. “Meeting the person gives me a lot of feedback about what type of woman she is and what she wants,” Buccellati tells me. “Sometimes I just talk to them, we meet and we have lunch. A lot of times, people fall in love with the workmanship, then come in and ask me to design a one-of-a-kind piece. In New York, I have a client who started with the Blossom collection and fell in love with Buccellati. Now, she brings me beautiful semi-precious stones and we design special pieces like a cuff or a pendant. Every year, she wants one special piece just for herself. More and more women know what they want and they ask me whether I can make it.”

On a more entry level sits the brand’s latest selection, which offers simple takes on its most cherished collections, each displaying special artisanal techniques. Drawing from the intricate patterns of Persian rugs, Buccellati  first unveiled its Rombi collection in the 1920s; in 2020, earrings and pendants in the new Mini Rombi collection focus on lozenge shapes. “Buccellati is not one of the houses that creates new collections all the time,” its co-creative director explains. “Our pieces are so timeless that we want to create new variations or add-ons but keep the identity of the collection. At the end of the day, you need to keep the essence of Buccellati.”

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