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Bulgari’s First Creative Director Lucia Silvestri Reflects on Her Four-Decade-Long Career

Lucia Silvestri

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

The announcement

“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.”

My signature

“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.”

Magic moments

“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

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