Iconic designs are those designs that stand out, like the iPod Touch. Evergreen milestones of design. Even if we can’t immediately recall the name of the author or don’t know it at all – like the Volkswagen Beetle, we connect our collective memory to them. So deeply intertwined with our society that they look as if they have always been in it – like the E60 stool. Iconic designs pass the test of time and stand up to inspire the next generations of designers. They set a trend.
This article is the first chapter of the “Iconic Designs” heading, which will be in particular devoted to jewelry. When it comes to jewelry, besides all the above-mentioned characteristics, iconic designs are those pieces that are worth investing in and bidding.
Coin jewelry certainly wasn’t invented by Bvlgari. However, the most recognizable and desirable coin collection ever created is the Monete by Bvlgari. By launching this collection in the 1960s, the Maison managed to make coin jewelry directly associated with the brand.
The secret of such a huge success is in the casual – easy-to-wear vibe, looking equally great with smart outfits or jeans and a white shirt.
The coins used in the Monete collection vary from ancient Roman and Greek to old European and American ones or even coins from Northern Africa. The choice of coins was based on their aesthetical side, but the numismatic value wasn’t ignored – the information related to the coin is always written on the back of each piece. Bvlgari never polished the coins but set them in pieces in the state they have come down to us. This contrast of rough patinated old metal of coins and polished gold makes its visual effect and pays tribute to traces left by time.
The Monete collection includes a variety of simple pieces, made of golden chains and coins, and more “loaded” options richly decorated with gems.
Another iconic design of the house of Bvlgari is Tubogas – a gas tube, literally translated from Italian. In fact, the technique of creating flexible welds-free metal tube was adopted by the Maison from real gas tubes, used since the 1920s.
The technique is complicated and time-consuming. Its essence is the creation of a flexible, elastic structure by wrapping flat ribbons of gold or other metal around a copper or wooden base, which was then pulled out or dissolved with acid. Bvlgari applied this technique to jewelry, which achieved tremendous success in the 60s.
Tubogas pieces are light, extremely flexible, and tight in the right way – they are comfortable, in a word. Same as Monete, Tubogas jewelry can be easily worn in daily life, thanks to its minimalistic geometric design…or it can become gorgeous jewelry set with precious stones and diamond pave details, and coins as well. If I had to choose from all the variety of pieces made in the Tubogas technique, I’d go for the watches.
When the Parentesi collection was launched in the ’80s, it was a real breakthrough. The name of the collection translates as “brackets” and explains the concept: jewelry pieces are made of modules of different shapes, which could be combined in different ways. Modules were produced in large quantities, and only the final processing was done by hand, which reduced the cost of such jewelry. Moreover, Parentesi pieces had a practical perk: the size could be readjusted by removing “brackets”.
The very idea of creating modular pieces perfectly suited the brands’ philosophy about modern easy-to-wear jewelry, which would fit in both formal and informal occasions, was simply stylish and…as a must of an iconic design – recognizable.
The ancient motif of a snake first appeared in Bvlgari jewelry in the 40s’, but the real fame for Serpenti pieces came in the ’60s and has never left it ever since. Started from watches, the Serpenti collection now includes jewelry, accessories like sunglasses, bags, and wallets. This is, as I call it, an endless collection, which has been constantly updated for decades.
Of all the snake-pieces, bracelets have become the most adorned, thanks to Elizabeth Taylor wearing them in the “Cleopatra” (1963). A piece of jewelry, wrapped around a wrist became a genuine icon of design. And, as befits a real icon, it got its development in many variations: united with Tubogas, encrusted with all kinds of gems and decorated with enamel, stylized and more naturalistic. Many Serpenti bracelets have a watch hidden in the mouth.
Besides exceptional design and craftsmanship, Serpenti pieces are symbolic. In different cultures, snakes symbolized different things: strength, fertility, rebirth, seduction, etc. Jewelry with snake motifs or in the form of snakes was popular in Ancient Greece and Rome, where, in addition to their decorative function, they played the role of apotrophe – amulets.
What also makes a jewelry piece to become iconic are its famous admirers. Andy Warhol, a big fan of Bvlgari, owned a collection of the Monete pieces. Among renowned Bvlgari lovers are Grace Kelly, Jane Fonda, Gina Lollobrigida, and, of course, Elizabeth Taylor.