La Dolce Vita and Beyond
By Iride Aparicio

Photos from: the Andrew Fox Gallery
Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte
The Bulgari Store in Via del Condotti in Rome
The Bvlgari Store in  10 Via del Condotti in Rome

SAN FRANCISCO, CA –  For those who agree with the Jule Styne and Leo Robin’s song that “Diamonds are a girl’s Best Friend”  (The song from  the 1949, original Broadway Production of “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds”)  “THE ART of  BVLGARI, La Dolce Vita and Beyond, l950-l990” exhibition, showing 145 pieces from the highlights jewelry of the renown Italian house of BULGARI, (the V in its name was changed for a U in English) that is being exhibited at the de YOUNG museum in San Francisco, is a must-see.

For Americans, the house of  BULGARI established 160 years ago in the heart of Rome, has been a "must-see" since l930, but it was during the l960’s, the so called “DOLCE VITA” years, after BULGARI jewelry moved beyond the Parisian jewelers' styles and started using boldly colored combinations of gemstones and yellow gold in which was known as "The Italian School of Jewelry design" (a form derived from Greco-Roman classicism, the Italian Renaissance and nineteenth-cintury goldsmiths) that the new style became the hallmark of BULGARI and its store in Rome the place where "American Movie Stars" (acting in films at CINECITTÁ the principal Italian movie studio) bought their jewelry. The pages of  the exhibition's catalogue mention that among them: were INGRID BERGMAN, AUDREY HEPBURN, AVA GARDNER and ELIZABETH TAYLOR, who showed such fervor for the house of BULGARI  that for their engagement, RICHARD BURTON gave her and emerald and diamonds brooch. (shown below) In l964, for their wedding, BURTON added to the brooch, a matching necklace.

Necklace with pendant broach (1958) platinum with emeralds and diamond. Formerly in the collection of Elizabeth Taylor.
 Necklace with pendant brooch (1958) platinum with emeralds and diamonds. Formerly in the collection of Elizabeth Taylor.

While the exhibition displays a great variety of  precious and semi-precious gems, the most predominant are the diamonds. There are clear diamonds, blue diamonds and yellow diamonds, cut in a multiplicity of shapes. There are Diamonds alone, and diamonds combined with other diamonds, or with rubies, emeralds, blue sapphires, pearls, Jades, encrusted in big or small  pieces of jewelry of different shapes and colors.

“Tremblant Brooch” platinum with fancy yellow diamonds
Tremblant Brooch” platinum with fancy yellow diamonds

This brooch with yellow diamonds also belonged to ELIZABETH TAYLOR’s collection, but it was given to her by Eddie Fisher, when he was her husband.  Its design, a brooch shaped like asmall bouquet of flowers, represents one of BULGARI’s greatest successes in jewelry design in the late 50’s and 60’s. The unique design is called “treamblant” because the heads of all the flowers are set on springs, so they shivered when the person moves, giving all the diamonds an extra sparkle.

Table Clock (l968) gold and Platinum with Lapiz Lazuli and diamond and rubies.
Table Clock (l968) gold and Platinum with Lapis Lazuli and diamond and rubies.

Diamonds are also used in other objects, in the exhibition. One example is this table clock with diamonds for numbers, all cut in the exactly same size. The clock also has diamonds for hands, and a ribbon made out of diamonds. It has a circle of gold frame and and rubies and clear diamond arranged all around it.

A completely different style of jewelry, were the “Tubogas” or chokers, also popular during the l960’s when Americans became drawn to the coin-set jewelry, another hallmarks of BURGARI . The “Choker bellow is for l974 collection and uses gold and  old Greek silver coins.

The Chocker above uses old  Greek coins and is made out of gold. 

The Choker above uses old  Greek coins and is made out of gold.

The exhibition displays 145 pieces of different styles created by the renowned Italian jewelers over four decades. Some of them using different color gems  in a single design, others using American themes, which include small American flags in earrings, or stripes and stars in necklaces and rings. Used also in the designs are icons of  playing cards: black clubs, red or black  hearts, and red diamonds. The “recorded tour of the exhibition” in ear phones,  which may be rented at the entrance, allows the visitor to learn more about the history of the jewelry and the history of BULGARI. There is also a short movie (about 15 minutes long) shown  in one of the galleries  where the exhibition is shown, that gives more about the history of  BULGARI and shows some of the many famous personalities who had patronized the store wearing their jewelry. As an exhibition, "THE ART of BVLGARI, La Dolce Vita and Beyond l950-l990"  highlights the jewelry that defined a pivotal period in design in BVLGARI, dating from the Post World War II era to l990 in Italy.