No stopping the spectacular

In an exclusive interview with Elite, Bvlgari's top boss Jean-Christophe Babin talks of the bold moves made by the Roman jeweller as their latest high jewellery collection shows there is no slowing down

Bvlgari's CEO Jean-Christophe Babin at the Magnifica event in Milan. (Photo: Daniele Venturelli)

As the Covid-19 pandemic is easing in some places around the world, one city that was among the hardest hit last year is emerging from the desolation in a glittering manner. Earlier this month, Italian jeweller Bvlgari unveiled their latest high jewellery collection Magnifica in Milan, in a spectacular manner nothing short of high-octane lavishness.

Looking at the pictures, it almost seems like a world-class event no different from the times before the pandemic. As a brand that has never been shy of being bold, the glitzy launch event for press, clients and celebrities saw lush dinners at the Bvlgari hotel (with Andrea Bocelli singing for guests), live concerts by the orchestra at La Scala Theater, as well as a High Jewellery atelier installed at the brand's flagship store on Via Montenapoleone for the public to view the collection.

"This was the first public event for Milan in the whole year," Jean-Christophe Babin, Bvlgari's CEO, says of the high-profile move the brand has made, a gesture to jumpstart the city after its courage in battling against Covid.

"I think everyone felt great to meet physically again -- for many it was the first time! Obviously, this was extremely monitored in terms of sanitary measures. Everyone had to test once per day to make sure there was safety between the guests, the Bvlgari people, La Scala musicians and all the staff necessary to make it happen. One week later, we can ensure success because there has been no reported case, which is an accomplishment. If you see from the pictures people were really happy and you can see in their smiles. People were happy to be together again, to sit together at tables, to have good drinks and good food, to listen to Andrea Bocelli singing live in the Bvlgari hotel garden. Concerts after dinner are really resuming that beautiful, magnificent luxury life as if there were no Covid."

Understandably, such a spectacular event was indispensable to parallel the magnificence of the Magnifica collection. Touted as the brand's most precious and stunning high jewellery collection yet, the pandemic and economic downturns have not put a damper on anything about this year's high jewellery masterpieces. Out of 350 pieces, more than 60 will be priced at over €1 million (37.4 million baht) each. For the first time, the high-end watches achieve new heights beyond the familiar Serpenti motif.

"We have new ways of designing and creating secret watches," explains Babin. "There are new pieces where you can see the hours through spinels or sapphires. There are also bracelets with gems you can push to see the time, which is a totally new construction compared to the traditional Serpenti. Bvlgari is the master of colours in jewellery, so that must also apply in jewellery watches. It was a big success combining several coloured gems [for this collection]."

The Imperial Spinel features the fourth largest known spinel in the world.

Besides the artistic perfection and upscale craftsmanship that is expected of these masterpieces -- so much that it must feel like a second skin to wear (some pieces requiring 2,500 hours to create) -- the sheer splendour of the gems is what makes the collection so breathtaking. One of the most buzzed pieces of the collection is the Hypnotic Emerald necklace.

"We have a new interpretation of the Serpenti, which is a double whammy because you get both a beautiful gem with an icon," Babin says of the 93 carat cabochon-cut Colombian emerald placed in the jaws of a snake.

Imperial Spinel is another stunning creation that features a 131 carat spinel, which is the fourth-largest in the world by carat weight. Another show-stopping masterpiece, the Mediterranean Queen necklace, showcases five cushion-cut Paraiba tourmalines (weighing a total of about 500 carats), which captures the waves and clear waters of the Mediterranean sea that surrounds Sardinia. Such popping pieces are not the only ones on offer as shape-shifting pieces such as the Ruby Metamorphosis, featuring a 10 carat antique cushion-cut Mozambique ruby, can be worn in countless ways. The diamond choker, chain and tassel made of baguette diamonds and cabochon rubies are all detachable in order to transform a necklace into a choker, brooch, pendant or earrings.

"For this collection, we brought back the Bvlgari multi-wearability," the CEO notes. "We believe the modern lady is driven by multiple wearability because it's a bit of a pity to have high jewellery or watch that you can use only on formal occasions. Just detaching parts of some of these pieces, you can create something more daily and I would say that is the main characteristic of the collection."

Babin reveals that usually, around 80-100 couples, aged in their 40s, frequent Italy each year to pick up these coveted, one-of-a-kind high jewellery treasures. Although sales have not reached numbers from pre-Covid times, they are currently an improvement from last year.

"I think we have good chances in 2021 to get back close to 2019 levels, which is something we wouldn't have expected six months ago," is the CEO's forecast of the demand. "Our sales in Milan confirm there is a real hunger for buying beautiful things. It's more than ever that people have been deprived of discretionary spending and of events where they could wear jewellery. When you buy [jewellery], it's not only to wear yourself, but to share your joy with other people, and Covid has limited the usage of your jewellery. But now that everything is resuming, the appetite is stronger than ever."

The Ruby Metamorphosis necklace can be worn at least 9 different ways. A matching secret watch hides the dial with a 6 carat ruby.

The Ruby Metamorphosis necklace can be worn at least 9 different ways. A matching secret watch hides the dial with a 6 carat ruby.

The Ruby Metamorphosis necklace can be worn at least 9 different ways. A matching secret watch hides the dial with a 6 carat ruby.

As a collection that took no less than a year-and-a-half in the works, the Bvlgari head honcho explains that Magnifica's brilliance can be credited to the company's bold stance to keep pushing forward, no matter the times.

"Despite Covid and financial restrictions, we didn't hesitate to buy a lot of gems last year, which has enabled the Magnifica collection to be so rich. Even in these times, Bvlgari still keeps investing because we know that they are good investments long term and we need them for our creativity. We bought more this year, so next year could be even more spectacular -- in the field of creativity and art, there is no limit."

Currently in the works is also the development of a new high jewellery manufacturing facility in Rome to increase the brand's production capacity. This surely implies that the future for jewellery is likely to be a bright one as Babin concludes: "There is much more demand for jewellery today and 2021 will be good. The next two to three years will be extremely good for jewellery and high jewellery."

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