(1919 – present)
Italian firm famous for its textural gold jewellery and exquisite silver objects. According to family history, the Buccellati’s first foray into the jewellery trade was in the mid-eighteenth century when Contardo Buccellati worked as a goldsmith in Milan. In 1903, Mario Buccellati revived the family tradition, apprenticing at Milan’s prestigious Beltrami & Beltrami. In 1919, Buccellati took over the firm, changing its name to Buccellati. International acclaim came quickly.
Exhibiting at Madrid’s 1920 Exposition, Mario Buccellati caught the public’s attention when he hurled an expensive compact out a window when a woman asked for a discount, shouting, “I am not a tradesman!”1 The next day, hundreds turned up to look at his booth, curious to see the unknown jeweller’s pieces. Everything sold. Buccellati was then invited to exhibit his work at a solo show; Spanish aristocrats came in droves, including the royal family who became lifelong clients.
In the years that followed, Buccellati’s work gained a loyal following in Italy and abroad. Poet Gabriele D’Annunzio dubbed him “The Prince of Goldsmiths” and ordered pieces by the hundreds.2 As his five sons came of age, all but one entered the business: Frederico, Gianmaria, Luca, and Lorenzo. New stores were opened in Rome (1925) and Florence (1929). In 1951, Buccellati became first Italian jewellery designer with a location on Fifth Avenue in New York City. In 1967, when Mario Buccellati died, the brothers split the business. Lorenzo and Frederico looked after the flagship stores in Italy. Luca and Gianmaria assumed control of stores in the United States, expanding to other locations in Hong Kong, (1970), Japan (1972), Monte Carlo (1976), and Paris (1979). The third generation has now assumed control of the firm and has continued to expand its international presence.
The main design accomplishments of the Buccellati clan span four decades: from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. The most distinctive aspect of the firm’s pieces is their rich textural quality. As one jewellery historian put it, “every bit of surface is worked and finished, whether visible or not, with many different engraving techniques.” 3 When the process is finished, the surface of a Buccellati piece often resembles a fine fabric: linen, tulle, lace. Piercing techniques recreate the look of honeycomb, lace, or webbing. Use of mixed metals (silver and gold, platinum and gold) is also typical. If gemstones are used at all, they are often unusual: large cabochons, carved emeralds and rubies, rose-cut diamonds. Naturalistic motifs are common fare. The pieces are bold and instantly recognizable as Buccellati. Despite the fact that the firm is effectively split, a distinctive look remains.
In addition to the jewellery created by Mario Buccellati, his compacts from the 1920’s to the 1950’s are particularly fine. Jewelled objects created by his son Gianmaria in the 1970’s and 1980’s including intricate chalices, candlesticks, amphorae, and chess sets, are also exceptional.4
Buccellati silver holloware and flatware likewise remain in a class of their own.
Maker’s Marks and Timeline:
- Easily recognized jewelry styles with distinct textures and engravings.
- Hand made jewelry, hand alloyed metals, hand engraving and stone setting, using very little in the way of machinery.
- No Untouched Gold every surface is engraved by hand.
- Silverware, Silver plates and animal figurines.
- Unique one-of-a-kind jewelry items that result in 70% of their profits.
- Jewelry still designed by the family.
- Senior Member: Andrea Buccellati, Milan.
- Lucrezia (Andrea’s daughter), New York.
- Buccellati, Gianmaria. Buccellati: Art in Gold, Silver, and Gems, ed. Maria Cristina Buccellati. Milan: Skira, 2000. ISBN 8881188244
- Corgnasi, Martina. Mario Buccellati: Prince of Goldsmiths. New York: Rizzoli, 1998. ISBN 0847821803
- Traina, John. Extraordinary Jewels. New York: Double Day, 1994. ISBN 0385266448