We see a lot of luxury jewelry at JustLuxe. A lot. Crowns, jewels, rare, one-of-a-kind pieces fit for royalty—some that are actually made for royalty—but of all the jaw-dropping dazzlers that have crossed our desks, nothing has moved us quite like the designs at Buccellati. Delicate handmade pieces that move like silk and visually are more like antique lace than precious metals is the iconic aesthetic of the brand. At almost a century old, the jeweler has passed the company on from generation to generation, until it fell in the lap of the newly appointed Creative Director Lucrezia Buccellati. Armed with a heritage rich in opulence, history and excellence, she is attempting to bridge the gap between tradition and modernity, and create a brand for a new millennium, for clients both new and old. We spoke with Buccellati about her new role in design, her hopes for the future of the brand and what it was like to grow up in one of the most prestigious families in Italy.
From a young age Buccellati knew she would enter the family business and spent time as a child watching her father, Andrea Buccellati, and grandfather, Gianmaria Buccellati, as they worked together in their Italian studio. “I vividly remember going to the Buccellati atelier and watching my grandfather and father design with just a pencil and piece of paper. I would sit next to them trying to imitate them,” she recalls. “Ever since I was a little girl, I loved to design.” After graduating high school she dedicated her studies to jewelry artistry, studying at Politecnico di Milano and jewelry design at the Italian Institute of Gemology, before attending the Fashion Institute of Technology. “I decided to move to New York and study at FIT so that I could also work part time at Buccellati New York,” she explains. “During my free time, while I was pursuing my studies, I would go to the atelier and learn from my grandfather and my father. My grandfather often worked with me hand in hand in designing one-of-a-kind pieces around gemstones and raw materials of my choosing.”
But learning artistry from Gianmaria Buccellati is not like learning fly fishing from your great-uncle Milton. “It was really like learning from a great master. He isn’t just a great jeweler, but an amazing artist that had a wonderful way of interpreting his inspiration and imagination through his design,” she says of her grandfather. “Sometimes when we are designing new collections, I find that it can be hard to find inspiration. He really taught me not to focus myself on just one thing, but to see a larger picture when it comes to designing.” But she isn’t the only descendant that’s been raised to take over the business someday. The family is known for cultivating protégés early on and bringing them up in an environment that garners creativity while honoring the traditional Buccellati aesthetic. “Our family has truly preserved its expertise by carefully exposing the upcoming generations from the time they’re young,” she explains. “Being part of a family business like ours is a true undertaking from an early age. You must be an expert by the time the bigger responsibilities can be yours. Adopting the DNA of our artisanal traditions is the first step, but at the same time, I had to find my individual contribution that would eventually move the brand forward together with my father.”
Recently appointed as Creative Director under her father, she realizes that part of her role is to help bridge the generational gap and that her youth in combination with his experience and tradition are what help to propel the brand forward. “I would say that both my father and I are modern, but modern in two different ways because we are from two different generations. That’s why it’s important that at any given time, there are two Buccellati family members from two different generations in the design chairs,” she explains. “This not only evolves the brand, but also allows us to fulfill the demand for a broader market while being aware of our history.” And it’s this meeting of the minds that she accredits to their success since her grandfather resigned. “Working together is wonderful. It is very easy because we truly complement one another in our designs. For example, Romanza, the bridal collection that we launched during Baselworld 2014, you can see a mix of Buccellati’s traditional aesthetics mixed with more of a contemporary and fresh style.”
For Buccellati and her father, creating a new collection is an arduous process, and can take months or even a year for some of their more detailed, one-of-a-kind-pieces, especially when trying to emulate the intricate precision work that her grandfather is known for. But moving from concept to showroom, while time consuming, is a journey that the two take together in a truly creative partnership where they play off each other’s suggestions. “I usually start with an idea and put it down on paper, sketching different pieces, motifs and shapes until I get something that I like. I can then move forward on a more detailed design as most of the time the sketches are a little rough,” she says, explaining the process. “I will then set up a meeting with my father, head of the creative department within Buccellati. We normally discuss the piece, what we should change, the materials we would need to use, etc. Most of the time, after these discussions, we change things. Sometimes they are small changes and other times they are big changes. I then do a final rendered sketch, which becomes the same rendering I show the artisan who will make the actual piece.”
Their newest collection, Bracelets de Reves, she credits entirely to her father. “The Bracelets de Reves collection was something that my father worked on. The inspiration behind the collection goes back to our family’s history of goldsmithing and use of precious stones,” she says. Artisans in metal and jewels, the family has been creating their iconic pieces for generations. Combining certain elements and practices they came up with a new line that speaks to both earlier and modern generations. Her father opted to give the new collection a more modern appeal, focusing instead on engraving and gemstones, pulling away from the delicate lace work of her grandfather. “Engraving is the incomparable signature of all the jewels created by Buccellati. This collection of cuff bracelets is engraved with the rigato technique, meaning that the gold surface is engraved with parallel lines in order to obtain a particular effect, giving the jewel a sublime look. This technique gives gold a silky texture, very much similar to some Couture dresses that recall this sense of Italian elegance,” she explains. “Every cuff bracelet within the collection hides a particular history: the origin of the stones, the peculiarity of certain engravings and the matching of the precious stones.”
But even with successful collections and modern luxuries like “the world’s most expensive iPhone case,” Buccellati and her father know they have a long way to go to accomplish what her grandfather has. “For my father and I, the challenge will be to expand even further around the globe and keep growing the business all whilst maintaining the style, quality and craftsmanship of Buccellati. Ultimately we will need to nurture the legacy of our family that my grandfather has left to us,” she adds. But as the newest Creative Director and the youngest Buccellati family member propelling the brand forward, she understands what is expected of her. “I hope to evolve the brand not only in terms of design, but also in terms of global growth. The vision is to increase our worldwide presence particularly in new markets for us such as the Middle East, Russia and Asia while remaining faithful to our DNA of craftsmanship and unique design,” she explains. “As the fourth generation designer, I’ll be looking to make more modern designs for the generations of today while maintaining the style that is true to Buccellati which is so unique and different than any other brand.”