Second Test

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Exclusive exhibit highlights pieces spanning four decades of Bulgari jewelry


Andy Warhol once said: “I always visit Bulgari because it is the most important museum of contemporary art.” These are wise words spoken by an artist who recognized the significance and impact the luxury brand was making on the world. Now, you can immerse yourself in the world of Bulgari at The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950-1990, on display through February 17, 2014, at the de Young Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco.

The carefully curated collection showcases 150 pieces from a pivotal period in Bulgari design. “It’s the period when Bulgari really came into its own in the post-war economic boom,” explains Martin Chapman, curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “What we see evolving from 1950 is Bulgari establishing its own identity in jewelry, coming up with new designs, new forms, new color combos.”

As Bulgari strayed from current jewelry trends, a new aesthetic was born for which the house quickly become known: bold and unusual color combinations, the heavy use of yellow gold (instead of white gold) for both daytime and evening jewelry, and the mix of semiprecious with precious stones are some of its most familiar characteristics.

Cabochon jewels (rounded gemstones) were also seen in Bulgari pieces in the late 1950s and on, as well as forms derived from the Italian Renaissance and Greco-Roman classicism.

Alongside the jewelry, the exhibit also features sketches, photographs and other archival materials that bring the cultural context of the pieces to life. But it is perhaps the social context, most notably, Bulgari’s relationship with a prominent celebrity clientele, which audiences will most enjoy exploring.

Celebrities like Sofia Loren, Ingrid Berman and Elizabeth Taylor were among some of Bulgari’s high-profile patrons. In fact, some of the most important pieces in the exhibit stem from Elizabeth Taylor’s collection, which Bulgari reacquired from a recent sale, Chapman explains. The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) even declared the pendant brooch Elizabeth Taylor’s emerald necklaces that’s on display in the exhibit as one of the finest emeralds in history.

Another standout piece is the Revson “Bib” necklace (above), formerly part of Lyn Revson’s collection, the wife of Revlon owner Charles Revson. The piece features a gorgeous and unusual combination of emeralds, amethysts, turquoise and diamonds.

“The main story is the jewels. They are fantastic quality and really represent the greatest during these years, Chapman says. “It’s a very exciting exhibition; people were blown away at the opening.”



“The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950–1990” runs until Feb. 17, 2014.