Italian luxury jewellery designer house, BVLGARI, has dazzled red carpets with Hollywood’s biggest stars since the 1950’s. From Elizabeth Taylor’s classic Serpenti set in Cleopatra to Sharon Stone’s trunk of jewels in Casino. Bvlgari’s iconic and timeliness elegance has appeared in over 40 films.
From the classic Hollywood era to modern blockbusters, Bulgari has collaborated with renowned filmmakers and stars to create dazzling showstoppers. Each exquisite piece enhanced the allure of celebrities and added a touch of glamour to the narratives.
Over the years, Bulgari has become synonymous with sophistication and style, adorning numerous film stars and celebrities. They are a staple on red carpets and at industry events including the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
A glimpse of the celebrity history with BVLGARI…
Taylor’s jewellery collection was renowned as one of the greatest ever assembled. The film star was a passionate patron of Bulgari jewels and owned many unique pieces.
The bold and sumptuous style of Bulgari perfectly matched her tastes. When the actress settled in Rome to film Cleopatra, it was just the start of their lifelong relationship.
This was also encouraged by her infamous love affair with Richard Burton. Legend has it that after filming their first scene together they instantly fell in love. This was despite the fact that they were both married. News of their love affair spread like wildfire throughout the international press. Bvlgari’s Via Condotti store was one of the favourite hide-outs for the couple when they were in Rome.
Elizabeth Taylor had already been a client of Bvlgari for some time. Burton quickly learned about her fascination for jewels and took every opportunity to present her with a new, fabulous piece. In 2011, Christie’s held a sale of Taylor’s private collection. It set records as the most valuable sale of jewellery in auction history. From this sale, and other private transactions, the Maison re-acquired nine pieces. They are now part of the BVLGARI Heritage Collection.
Her emerald engagement ring also caused quite a scene. The actress cherished this piece but she decided to auction it to raise funds for the fight against AIDS. She wrote a letter to the new owners instructing them to “Wear it with love!”.
Burton also presented her with a spectacular necklace of emeralds and diamonds on the occasion of their marriage in 1964. The starting point of this jewel was a brooch – one of the first gifts from Richard Burton and subsequently re-worked as a pendant. The actress loved it so much that it was the only jewel she wore on the day they were married.
Another magnificent Bulgari creation, the “Sautoir” featured an octagon shaped pendant with a 65-carat sapphire. It was chosen by the actor in 1972 to mark her fortieth birthday because the intense blue of the stone reminded him of the colour of her eyes.
Beside the fabulous stones, Taylor also admired the craftsmanship behind her jewels. A perfect example of this can be found in her Bvlgari “Tremblant” brooch with emeralds and diamonds, whose flowers quiver following the movements of the wearer’s body thanks to a spring attached to the petals.
The actress continued to buy Bulgari jewels throughout her life. The Trombino ring featuring a Cabochon sapphire, for example, was purchased by Taylor herself as an ideal complement to the Sautoir.
Another piece she chose and wore frequently is the 1975 necklace featuring ancient coins. Her fondness for Bulgari’s iconic Monete pieces was also inspiration for her choice of a fine cigarette case in silver with Roman bronze coins that the actress and Richard Burton gave to Cleopatra’s director, Joseph Mankiewicz.
Jewels were a source of pure happiness for her, yet in her understanding, one cannot ever truly own jewellery and its bright soul. Taylor felt she was just the custodian of her jewels, watching over them and loving them.
“I adore wearing gems, but not because they are mine. You can’t possess radiance, you can only admire it.” ~ Elizabeth Taylor
Lollobrigida was another actress who also adored the luxury brand. She really loved a particular set of earrings, emeralds and diamonds set in platinum, that Bulgari sold her in 1964. She wore them throughout her career and they were featured in many photographs.
Mounting two pear-shaped 21 carat Columbian emeralds, enhanced by 67 diamonds of various sizes totalling 26.5 carats, Bulgari bought them back at Sotheby’s in Geneva in 2013. The emerald pendant was counter-balanced by a delicate floral motif on the ear clip. Both could be worn independently from each other.
The Sotheby’s sale provided the opportunity to remind us that this star – who shone in Cinecittà, Hollywood and the Parisian studios was a lady with a generous heart. She played an active role in a number of charities, as part of the proceeds of the sale benefited stem cell research.
Born in 1927, she became an actress by chance by accepting a walk-on part in a film. In over 60 films, she became a legend garnering many awards and a few unforgettable roles such as Esmeralda in Notre Dame de Paris – alongside Gérard Philippe, Yul Brynner, Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart.
In 1955 for the movie, The World’s Most Beautiful Woman, she was awarded the Italian cinema’s golden trophy, the David di Donatello, made by Bulgari. When she retired as an actress, she started a second career as a photographer shooting portraits of both ordinary and famous people, for which she was awarded the Nadar prize in 1972.
Gina Lollobrigida wore her own necklace/tiara very similar to the one worn on the set of the 1964 thriller, Woman of Straw. She played the character of a nurse employed by the nephew of a tyrannical tycoon who plots ways to gain control of his uncle’s fortune. Her character was supposed to seduce the rich man but instead, she fell in love with him. When the man died, she became the victim of the nephew’s perverse schemes.
A 1962 editorial of the Italian magazine “Epoca” reported Lollobrigida at the Venice Film Festival wearing a stunning necklace with emeralds. This was to adorn the white empire waist gown that reflected the movie she worked on, Imperial Venus. It was reported that she was surrounded by six bodyguards “to prevent any possible menace to the necklace”. The “seven wonders” necklace had just been crafted by the Bulgari artisans and was already paired with another “Italian Wonder”.
In 1963, starring in the movie The Visit, Ingrid Bergman chose to wear only Bulgari jewels to complement her character of a rich and strong woman in search of revenge. Amongst her preferences, a necklace in yellow gold with diamonds. This was a change from the more classic combination of platinum with diamonds.
A passionate and empowered woman, the Swedish actress appreciated the Italian warmth. In 1950, she had abandoned Hollywood and her husband to work on the movie Stromboli with her new lover, the Italian movie director Roberto Rossellini, who was separated from his wife and had an affair with Anna Magnani. When she saw Rome Open City and Paisan she knew Italy had to be a part of her destiny. Rossellini and Bergman had three children before they separated in 1956.
Art Deco geometries of the 1930s became more dominant yet the large diamond was truly distinctive amongst the jewels of the same period. Sumptuous volumes and round shapes became trademarks of the Bulgari style in the following decades. The elongated outline of the jewel was also perfect to fit the softer flapper dresses of the 1930s. The style evolved as women abandoned the corsets and opted for garments with lower waists and high necklines — ideal for dancing the Charleston at parties, and more comfortable for driving cars.
Hairstyles of those times, strictly short or gathered up, allowed for a more stylish presentation of the two elegant pendants with diamonds applied to the closure. The iconic look continues to be one of the most favoured by movie stars, having been worn by Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez, Ashley Judd, Jessica Chastain, Juliette Binoche, Scarlett Johansson and Milla Jovovich on their red carpet appearances.
To decorate the head with flowers or leaves was an ancient custom and signified honour, love, or victory. The term tiara, in its original form, describes the high-peaked head decoration worn by Persian kings. The Greeks celebrated victory in games by crowning the champions with a wreath made of natural laurel leaves. The Romans continued this tradition but took it a step further by honouring their victorious generals with wreaths made of real gold, thus metaphorically turning perishable natural foliage into the eternal.
While Roman conquerors were honoured with golden wreaths of glory, Roman brides wore natural ones, made of flowers and leaves. French society during Napoleon’s reign (1799-1814) was inspired by a passion for classical aesthetics. With it came a revival of the ancient fashion for diadems that appeals still today.
In the 1930s convertible pieces were highly fashionable and versatile as they allowed for a single jewel to be turned into multiple pieces. The necklace could be transformed into a tiara, perfect to crown the short or gathered hairstyles of that time.
Keira Knightly wore one of Bulgari’s most favoured colour combinations of red, green and blue, at the Oscars ceremony in 2006 when she was nominated best actress for the film, Pride and Prejudice. The necklace was formerly in the collection of the Brazilian socialite Carmen Mayrink Veiga. She was considered one of the most elegant women in the country in the mid-1950s. In a 1981 edition of Vanity Fair, she appeared on a list of the most stylish women in the world.
Carmen was already frequenting luxury fashion shows by the time she married the businessman Tony Mayrink Veiga. The couple was known for hosting parties either at their apartment in Rio with a view of Sugarloaf Mountain, or at their apartment in Paris. Their jet-set lifestyle led “Vogue” to classify them as the most chic and exciting couple in South America.
Another great necklace, now part of a private collection, was formerly in the collection of Barbara Sinatra, the beloved wife of the legendary singer and actor Frank Sinatra. This 10th-anniversary gift also had a romantic story. Sinatra bought it from the Bulgari store in Monte Carlo. He gave the salesperson a blank cheque. Apparently, money was no object to mark such a special occasion.
A former model and Las Vegas showgirl, Barbara Ann Blakeley married Sinatra in 1976 as his fourth wife. At the time that they first met, Barbara was married to her second husband, Zeppo Marx, a former member of the Marx Brothers comedy team. The crooner was married to his second wife, Ava Gardner.
In her 2011 book, Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank, Barbara remembered that she first met Frank was when she was asked to be a doubles partner with Gardner. The necklace was given to her the same year the couple founded the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center in Rancho Mirage. California. The California foundation provided individual and group therapy for abused, neglected and at-risk children. They remained together until Frank Sinatra’s death in 1998.
This year, Bulgari returns to TIFF with a major partnership that also extends to the Tribute Awards Gala. Bulgari will once again sponsor the Share Her Journey Groundbreaker Award. This recognition is given to a woman who is a leader in the film industry and has made a positive impact on other women throughout their career. Last year, the award was given to Michelle Yeoh for her groundbreaking screen work that spans continents, genres, and decades.
*All images courtesy of Bvlgari. Historical facts provided by Bvlgari.