Lucia Silvestri was only 18 years old when she began working at the Italian high jewelry house Bulgari in the geological department. She started out buying gemstones and ultimately was named its first creative director. Over 40 years later, she reveals her latest collection at the Italian Embassy in Paris — Eden, The Garden of Wonders. Actresses Anne Hathaway, and Priyanka Chopra, Thai rapper Lisa, and former French first lady and supermodel Carla Bruni were on hand to showcase Silvestri’s work. Now, the creative director looks back on her greatest “love affair.”
Anne Hathaway at this year’s Cannes Film Festival wearing the Eden Mediterranean Reverie Necklace
Heart over mind
“I was studying biology, because I was planning to be a biologist. And suddenly, I fell in love with gems. When Bulgari asked me to join the company, it was really a small company — five stores — I immediately said yes. I didn’t think, I just followed my heart.”
Silvestri in Jaipur
Amer Fort, Jaipur
Far flung places
“In the early eighties when I started traveling to buy gems my first trips were to Sri Lanka, India, and New York. I was never nervous — always very curious and excited. I felt sure because I started with the Bulgari family. I felt very safe in terms of the responsibility . To this day, I am still very excited.”
With Nicola Bulgari
It’s a man’s world
“Of course, it was quite difficult. I could select gems and that was easy, but when I started to negotiate, that was very difficult because the men would say, ‘I want to negotiate with Mr Bulgari, not with you.’ I was very young, and a woman, but I wanted to do it. Now, I’m very proud; the world is changing but it’s still very male-dominated.”
The first necklace Silvestri designed for Bulgari in 1988
The first of many
“The first lesson from Mr Bulgari was, ‘Don’t buy a gem if you don’t know how you can use it.’ So, I started to develop my creativity from the beginning. The first piece I made, I was still a buyer but I was working very closely with Mr Bulgari, he gave me the responsibility to buy gems to make a necklace. This piece (pictured, above) was created with yellow and light blue sapphires that I selected in Sri Lanka. I made the layout of several strands and when I returned to Italy, we decided to create this necklace. We used the stones I selected with almost no design. The owner loaned it for our recent retrospective.”
Zendaya wearing the Magnifica Serpent Emerald necklace at the Venice Film Festival 2021
“It wasn’t official, it came by phone. My boss was in China and asked me if I was sitting down and then said, ‘From June, you will be the new creative director of Bulgari.’ I exclaimed, ‘What?!’ Initially, I thought it was the creative director role for high jewelry, but he said, ‘No, for all the jewelry.’ Of course, I cried. I called my mother and my best friends. I spent the whole month thinking that it was a dream, that it was not true.”
“I respect the past. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with the three Bulgari brothers who were my mentors and my teachers, I just put something more feminine in my creativity in terms of colors. As for versatility and wearability, as a woman, I like the idea of wearing the same jewels in the morning and evening — transformability in jewelry.”
Blooming Beauty watch from the Eden Garden of Wonders collection
Eden, The Garden of Wonders
“The spirit of this new collection of 140 pieces is sharing beauty in terms of design, craftsmanship, and gems. You can see an explosion of gems and new combinations of colors. This is really ‘Eden, The Garden of Wonders,’ I thought that the gems are a gift from nature — as are flowers. Gems became flowers, flowers became gems. I’m very lucky because I live across from one of my best friends. I think she has the best secret garden in Rome — small but very rich. I take inspiration from that garden. And she takes inspiration from my jewels and colors — albeit my favorite flower is the white peony. I will probably finish my career in the same company. It’s not just a professional story, it’s a love story.”
“I recently was with a client when she bought a necklace, and I felt very proud. I hugged her. It featured an inverted flower. At Bulgari, the idea of nature is not literal, it’s fantasy. I’m a little bit sad when we sell pieces immediately, but when I see a woman who I appreciate, who is beautiful, and who wears it in the best way, I’m so happy.”
Originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia
Read Next: Meet the Iranian-American Winner of the Very First Bulgari Contemporary Art Award in Dubai
Academy award winning actress Anne Hathaway arrived at the Italian Embassy in Paris sparkling, literally. Adorned in a necklace, bracelet, and ring by Bulgari, the actress was in the French capital to celebrate the new high jewelry collection, Eden, the Garden of Wonder by the Roman house’s creative director Lucia Silvestri. Joining her as faces of the brand were actress Priyanka Chopra and Thai rapper Lisa. Former first lady of France Carla Bruni also appeared at the beginning of the soiree, only to reappear for a surprise appearance on the runway met by cheers by guests.
Bulgari organized a high jewelry show within the Embassy to feature the 140 pieces in the collection. Models dressed in nude-colored dresses, with free-flowing hair appeared like contemporary goddesses adorned with the pieces featuring magnificent gemstones and semi-precious stones.
Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin and Carla Bruni with the models. Photo: Getty
Afterwards, guests convened in the gardens for a dinner prepared by two-Michelin-starred chefs, French Yannick Alléno and Italian Emanuele Scarello. Sat at tables winding like serpents through grass, under a ceiling dripping with fuchsia flowers, guests enjoyed sea bass and toasted brioche, monkfish with basil and citrus burrata, and veal with capers and fresh lemon, and closed off the evening with a performance by Italian musician Mario Biondi who was joined on-stage by Carla Bruni.
Jean-Christophe Babin addresses guests at dinner. Photo: Getty
READ NEXT Seduced and Abandoned: Celebrating the haunting beauty of the history of Sicily
Photo: Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan wearing the second chapter of her Jannah collection
In a visual triolet that rings with Abu Dhabi and Roman rhymes, and in loving memory of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Bvlgari’s Jannah High Jewellery collection returned with a second sonnet this year. Translating to ‘paradise’ in Arabic, the collection was released in its second chapter in no ordinary hap. Instead, it redefined the line’s legacy with a movie that narrates the journey between its two founding mothers: Her Highness, Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan’s granddaughter, and Lucia Silvestri, Bvlgari’s Creative Director.
The movie takes viewers on an emotional journey with the history of Jannah’s founding, and blends narratives from the Italian and authentic Emirati cultures. Tapping into the creative void of those country’s architecture, landscape, and attitudes, Her Highness, Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan leads the audience in a captivating chronicle of her heritage. Looking back at the collection’s first moments of launch, she shared: “The collection touched so many people – my family; my country. I wanted to share my grandfather’s message of love and peace.”
Echoing the floral motifs that reside in the interiors and ceilings of The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the collection boasts recurring five-petal flowers in a circular golden frames with inserts like mother of pearl, a feminine stone of traditional significance in Emirati culture, and diamond pavé. The collection combines luxury, glamour, and convenience in six different everyday sets, ranging from a pendant necklace with matching earrings and a gold and diamond tassel to stud earrings, another pendant, and an elegant bracelet. “It is so light and beautiful, literally heaven. This is Sheikh Zayed’s message through a work of art.” Her Highness said. “The iconic Jannah flower is perfect for fine jewelry. It was something we loved at first sight; we loved the geometry. Italian and Arab culture meeting in a seamless creative balance,” Silvestri added.
Initially created in 2020, the Bvlgari Jannah High Jewelry collection highlights Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s message for peace and joy through her grandfather’s memory. The idea of the collection sparked when Silvestri and Her Highness met in The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, and welded their passion for life, family, and beauty in a visual collection. “Creating together – the energy and inspiration were wonderful,” revealed Silvestri.
Read Next: HH Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bvlgari on Chapter Two of the Jannah Collection