The Timeless Allure of Venice and Buccellati: A Meeting of Heritage and Modernity

Charmaine Ho travels to La Serenissima to discover the magical artistry and history of Buccellati.
Published: June 20, 2024
The Timeless Allure of Venice and Buccellati: A Meeting of Heritage and Modernity
Creative director Andrea Buccellati; global communications and marketing director Maria Cristina Buccellati; co-creative director Lucrezia Buccellati; and special sales and VIP client director Luca Buccellati.

We’re in Venice, the city that inspired poets and novelists like Byron and Hemingway, and painters like Monet and Turner, not to mention the countless auteurs, artists, and romantics who have travelled to its overflowing banks for a glimpse of their muse. However, it is not the City of Water but a 92-year-old woman named Patricia Eisenbeiss who figures prominently on my highlights reel of the trip. 

We met at the Buccellati gala at Fortuny Factory, in a glamorous see-through marquee that has been erected specially for the evening. Under a clear Italian sky, I discover a host of interesting things about my distinguished seatmate. Originally from Pennsylvania, now residing in Monaco, Patricia has lived an eventful life on different continents. Though it has been four decades since she came to Singapore, her daughter (the statuesque woman sitting across from her, who like her mother, is decked out in Buccellati jewellery) has visited more recently, staying in the Armenian church compound for the two weeks she was there.

Related article: With Its 105-Year Heritage for Ethereal Jewellery, Buccellati Has Remained a Celebrity Favourite for Good Reason

The Timeless Allure of Venice and Buccellati: A Meeting of Heritage and Modernity
Oficine 800, the event space where the exhibition was hosted.

The conversation runs politely but in a sprightly manner. She seems impressed that I’m a magazine editor, but I am obviously even more impressed with her, especially when I discover that she is a VIP who has generously loaned a diamond Opera bangle to the exhibition that I will be visiting the next day. “I’ve been collecting Buccellati for many, many years,” she informs me matter-of-factly, before recounting how the bangle was a surprise gift from her husband, who knew that she had been eyeing it for a long time. 

The next day, as I embark on my three-minute walk to the exhibition from my hotel, I can’t help but think about the convivial atmosphere within the marquee. With VIPs rubbing shoulders with members of the media, and the Buccellati family playing host, the evening felt less formal than the usual soirees, and more like a big 300-guest wedding with extended family who have come together to celebrate. 

Related article: Milly Carnivora Is Back With Three New Jewellery Designs

The Timeless Allure of Venice and Buccellati: A Meeting of Heritage and Modernity
The Buccellati exhibition experience was enhanced by multi-media presentations.

This perhaps explains my initial surprise when I step into the exhibition space at Oficine 800. If the night before was a chic yet relaxed party, the exhibition is all about sophistication and prestige, as is befitting the subject. 

Titled “The Prince of Goldsmiths, Rediscovering the Classics”, the major retrospective spans 105 years of Buccellati history, through 230 creations that have been grouped across four multi-media rooms. The first room, aptly named ‘The Buccellati Generations’, sets the tone with its presentation of just four butterflies resting serenely beneath silk panel projections.

Each butterfly is the creation that represents a generation: The first brooch is by founder Mario; the second by Mario’s son Gianmaria; the third by Gianmaria’s son Andrea; and the last by Lucrezia, Andrea’s daughter who currently co-designs all of Buccellati’s collections with her father. It’s a clever way of kicking off the exhibition as it showcases the evolution of the Buccellati style, which has stayed true to the design signatures and heritage that set the brand apart—highly intricate, delicate, handworked finishes that leave no surface of gold untouched. 

Related article: Permanent Jewellery: What to Know and Where to get it

The Timeless Allure of Venice and Buccellati: A Meeting of Heritage and Modernity
The exhibition presented a selection of personal objects such as vanity cases and handbags.

Moving to the second room, the brand’s stylish objects, going back to the 1930s, take centre stage. Engraved cigarette cases and matchboxes are presented alongside a trove of darling powder boxes, handbags and evening cases, providing an illuminating snapshot of European life in the 20th century. From there, the exhibition makes a natural progression to the silver nature-inspired masterpieces that Buccellati creates for the home. Fauna from both land and sea accompany luscious flora—brought to life through ancient silversmithing techniques. 

Despite the wondrous displays thus far, it is the last room that is the star of the show. Named ‘The Gallery of the Icons’, this is where Buccellati’s bedazzling icons are displayed for all to fawn over. Creations bearing the brand’s signature techniques like tulle, lace, engraving and enchainment take up the room’s central space, with supple jewellery that flows like fabric while reflecting light from masterfully crafted detailing. To the side are other emblematic designs like Ombelicali sautoirs and sizable cocktail rings, along with Macri, Hawaii and Opera creations, and where I am finally able to admire Patricia’s bangle. 

The Timeless Allure of Venice and Buccellati: A Meeting of Heritage and Modernity
A transformable necklace with a detachable brooch from 2018.

Third generation creative director Andrea Buccellati tells me, “The exhibition is a mission. We wanted it to be a retrospective where visitors are able to see the product of each generation—designs that are different from one generation to the next but always with respect to the quality of workmanship that has been passed down since over a hundred years ago. This was very important to me: To show our clients that continuation and the preservation of a style with beautiful pieces that present that history from my grandfather, my father, my own, and now, Lucrezia.” 

To learn more about the family-run business (which has been a part of the Richemont Group since 2019), I caught up with father-and-daughter creative team, Andrea and Lucrezia, and discover, over cups of coffee and a lot of laughter, what it’s like to share the design reins.

The Timeless Allure of Venice and Buccellati: A Meeting of Heritage and Modernity
A red lacquer diamond Opera bangle belonging to private collector, Patricia Eisenbeiss.

Both of you now co-design all of the brand’s collections. What are your dynamics?

Andrea Buccellati: It’s just a part of our life. Lucrezia Buccellati: It’s something that comes very naturally for us. That’s what happened with the newest butterfly [displayed at the exhibition]. I was thinking of creating the honeycomb in a different way. So I sketched it, we talked about it, and that’s when the big collaboration between the two of us happens. Because he has all the knowledge of the savoir-faire, and I keep on learning all the time from him on every project and every design that we do. I think that’s important; this constant collaboration and walk-through on how to evolve something new. That’s the beauty of it, especially when you have two generations working together.

But there’s this other dynamic at play as well: The father-daughter relationship. What is that like?

LB: [Laughs] There are challenges. As father and daughter, being family means that you’re more direct sometimes. But at the same time, I can put more pressure into insisting on finding a solution [to a new design]. And that’s how we create sometimes and find ourselves at places we never thought that we would have gotten to. I don’t know, maybe you have something different to say?

AB: What can I say when you’ve already said everything? No, it has been interesting and I like working with her. Of course, it can be challenging at times when she doesn’t understand why something is impossible on the technical side. So I insist and she insists … but then we come up with a solution that challenges both of us. 

What is one thing that you both really admire about each other as designers?

AB: She really loves the job and has a lot of passion—that is very important to be successful. She also makes me see jewellery in different ways. When I design, I try to design the most beautiful jewellery, et cetera. But she thinks about how the jewellery is worn and looks for something more wearable. So she has changed my perspective about designing for important occasions and the everyday.

LB: I think what’s beautiful in Buccellati is the fact that two generations always tend to work together so that we always have this soft passage from one generation to the next. I kind of became the little apprentice, learning as much as I can. I admire his knowledge, and how he creates and designs. Recently, we were working on a necklace and I was thinking about having it in white and yellow gold, and maybe coloured stones. But he immediately said “no, it has to be white gold”. He could already see it in his mind. And it was exactly the right choice. 

How would you describe each other’s design? 

LB: He’s very precise; precision is essential to him. I would say I’m more like my great-grandfather in the sense that I’m more liberal and free. He is also very modern in his own style—very geometric and very delicate and very precise.AB: She is fresh. She explores differently, and in a certain way, designs like an impressionist where the concept comes first. That is interesting. 

How would you describe Buccellati to people who are not familiar with the brand?

AB: Buccellati is a combination of three concepts: A unique design style that is very elegant and classic; a focus on techniques; and the high quality of our artisans and workmanship. It’s these three points that make a Buccellati, and the reason why a Buccellati creation is recognised immediately. You cannot copy a Buccellati because it’s very expensive to imitate—the cost [of production] is so high; it doesn’t make sense. 

So what’s next for Buccellati: Can we expect new collections to be introduced?

AB: Not really. We will create new pieces for our existing collections but for the moment, we aren’t thinking of adding new collections. Don’t forget that one-of-a-kind pieces is a big part of our production and some of our pieces take two to three years to produce.And what are the three essential Bucellati pieces that every woman should have?

LB: The Macri bracelet because I think that it’s a statement and something that empowers you, a Tulle Eternelle ring, and a pair of Hawaii earrings that are so delicate and unique, and easy to wear with everything. When you wear them, they make this tinkling sound, and it’s so relaxing and meditational.

AB: For me, it’s any of the one-of-a-kind iconic pieces.

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