By Luke Cairns
"I am not a tradesman!" - Mario Buccellati
A Maison magnificent, renowned for quality. Painstakingly transmuting solid gold into the lightest of lacework that has kissed the skin of the 20th century's chicest women. A hallmark of the house’s design flair being the unique combination of lace and honeycomb structures, the purest of precious gems, and most intricate of engravings.
Formally founded in 1919, Mario Buccellati opened his first showroom in Milan, a stone’s throw from the La Scala Opera House, whose rich and famous patrons were the perfect clientele for such jewels. With a rich family tradition of fine artisanry, beginning with his ancestor Contardo Buccellati in 1750, it was not long before word spread locally of the high-quality, beautifully ornate creations emerging from this mysterious new master.
At the beginning however, times were tough, and Buccellati did not have the funds to fill his shop with jewels to sell. Instead, he filled the windows and vitrines with beautiful drawings, sketches of what could be, if you allowed yourself to dream. Soon enough, the dreams became a reality, and the never-before-seen creations came to life, becoming the must have of Milan’s upper echelons.
Exhibiting at the Madrid Exposition in 1920, Mario Buccellati caught the public’s attention when he hurled an expensive compact out of a window when a woman asked for a discount, shouting, "I am not a tradesman!” The next day, hundreds of curious spectators turned up to look at his booth, curious to see the unknown jeweller’s pieces. It was a complete sellout. Buccellati was then invited to exhibit his work at a solo show, where the Spanish aristocracy came in force, including the royal family who became lifelong clients.
Taking inspiration from Italy’s art and architecture, with particular emphasis on the Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries, Buccellati’s jewellery walks a tightrope between past and future, tradition and trailblazing, art and artifact. With a language of design that is instantly recognisable from the rest, to behold a Buccellati is to behold a rarity.
Here at Berganza, having amassed one of the largest collections of antique and vintage jewellery in the world, including plenty of signed pieces, we only have two Buccellati’s; testament to their rarity and intrinsic value. The first, and one of my personal favourites from our entire collection, is an incredibly rich natural and unenhanced Burmese ruby set in a divine, almost impossibly engraved gold setting. Entirely handcrafted in circa 1940, one can only imagine the hundreds of hours that went into crafting the piece, with the immaculate engraving flowing from floral to foliate flourishes, providing a luscious texture and finish.
The second is an extravagant bombé ring, also circa 1940, that captures a bold and brilliant burst of Buccellati’s style. Encompassed in the Maison’s signature rigato style, a fine hand carved engraving of parallel lines onto gold, one of many engraving techniques championed by these Milanese masters. Shooting from the centre shines an opulent old cut diamond of approximately 2.90 carats, surrounded by a starburst of scintillating eight-cut diamonds, adding an additional 1.20 carats to the splendour. Their white gold settings are suspended seamlessly from the yellow gold rigato core. It is truly a marvel.
Don’t believe me? Come and see for yourself…