While the first portion of our trip focused on finding a connection with the character of Cleopatra, the second drew attention to the special attraction Elizabeth Taylor felt for Bulgari.
Thanks to a day spent in Rome with a trifecta of Bulgari delights, I understood wholeheartedly. Between a visit to the factory, one of the main stores in Rome down the street from the Spanish steps, and the headquarters, I experienced a full on immersion into Bulgari’s world.
Our adventure started early, with an hour ride outside of the city to Aurelio. Upon our arrival at the Bulgari factory, we were met with the iconic signage, only adding to the palpable excitement. Double doors welcomed us in and we quickly stepped into the building that held the masters of jewelry creation. Though photography is strictly verboten in the factory, we were lucky enough to walk through the process of ideation to construction, from raw materials to Bulgari high jewelry. Inside the walls of the factory, skilled craftsman dedicate themselves to bringing Bulgari high jewelry to life, with a six-step process. From building the molds to delicately applying the gems, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and more go from ideation to creation in a matter of six to eight months. At Bulgari, the stones are considered the center of creativity, and so the brand has cemented its role as the masters of colored gemstones.
Armed with the knowledge of how Bulgari jewelry is made, it was time to take off for the store in the heart of Rome – to take a look at Elizabeth Taylor’s gems and peer into the cases upon cases of amazing baubles.
Situated just a short walk down the street from the Spanish Steps, the flagship store on Via Condotti houses many beautiful Bulgari collections, but one is especially notable. In the private room where Taylor used to enjoy intimate purchasing moments, Bulgari shows off the 8-piece collection it recently bought back from the Elizabeth Taylor collection. Enclosed in decadent cases are the emeralds, the diamonds, and the sapphires that once were part of the icon’s incomparable collection.
In addition to the breathtaking designs, the store brought to light the aesthetic characteristics of Bulgari high jewelry. It’s quite easy to see that Bulgari appreciates a bit of color when it comes to their jewelry, but the attention it pays to gems, however, is quite great. Colorways and combinations are of the highest importance, opting for bold choices and unexpected pairings. Turn over any piece of Bulgari jewelry and you’ll see that the same dedication and concentration spent on the front is replicated on the back. Our walk through the Bulgari store was only an indication of the understanding we’d have for Bulgari tradition after meeting the delightful Lucia at our next stop.
To complete the Bulgari trifecta, we gathered at Bulgari headquarters in Rome for a desk side moment with gemstones to meet the woman whose job it is to travel the world in search of said gems. Lucia, Bulgari’s brilliant gem master, greeted us adorned in “her babies” and quickly had our mouths agape at a table full of decadence. From the 3 million euros worth of sapphires to the wax boards showcasing possible new Bulgari necklaces, we were in the presence of not only hundreds of thousands of euros worth of jewelry, but also the brain behind the designs.
In the span of about 45 minutes, Lucia recounted tales of her work with Bulgari: travels around the world in search of the perfect gems, surprise delights in India, finding inspiration in Jaipur where many of Bulgari’s gems come from, convincing jewelers in Rajasthan to cut gems in half on her hunch. One by one, she held up necklaces and bracelets in noticeable bold colors and intricate designs, expertly laying them across her wrists and neck with the grace of a woman who was meant to handle pieces of this caliber.
In speaking with her, it’s easy to see not only her passion, but also her dedicated and peerless talent when it comes to her craft. It is in Bulgari’s tradition to reinvent nature with geometry and Lucia has an uncanny ability to see the beauty hidden in stones, accurately imagining their hidden potential.
The trip to Rome would hardly be complete without stopping by the oldest Italian film studio where Cleopatra was shot, Cinecitta. In addition to housing the set of Ancient Rome for the storied film, it also is the home of all of Fellini’s movies, making it an extremely important location in film history. After twists and turns, strolling though film sets that felt like New York, Paris, and Rome, we walked into an opulent room containing a pair of very well preserved costumes – Taylor’s two remaining Cleopatra outfits. Unfortunately, after the film was completed, many of the costumes were given away, but Cinecitta is lucky enough to retain ownership of two costumes, including the gold
number she wears when entering Rome on her pyramid. Even though they’re half a century old, the pieces are in perfect condition. Just as Bulgari jewelry draws you in and makes you wonder at it’s beauty, the costumes have the exact same effect. Intricate detailing line both of the capes, made for an icon who exuded not only beauty, but self confidence and strength. If it’s possible for a garment to retain sentiments from it’s previous owner, these costumes did exactly that. It was as if, after placing ourselves in Taylor’s life as Cleopatra between spa treatments and a Bulgari immersion, we could almost feel her presence through her clothes.
Even though the film is 50-years-old and unfortunately both Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor have left this world, Cleopatra’s influence extends to newer generations. I’d implore everyone to take the time to watch the film and truly understand the hard work, dedication, and sentiment put into the creation of the masterpiece. To mark the milestone, Twentieth Century Fox has digitally re-mastered the movie, with a new DVD release. Additionally, Cleopatra is currently screening in 200 movie theatres worldwide. You won’t regret watching Taylor in the role that successfully exerted not only her beauty but also her unrivaled presence.