Combining classic style with contemporary design, Buccellati is known for its unique and artful approach to jewelry. The firm’s founder, Mario Buccellati, was an exacting artisan who studied and revived ancient goldsmithing and engraving techniques, resolving to leave no jewelry piece with “untouched gold.” Deeply inspired by Italian history and tradition, he meticulously crafted his jewelry by hand out of only the finest precious materials, and his design approach led to his becoming one of the most accomplished and famous Italian jewelry designers in history.
Renaissance artistry, natural motifs, and intricate textural engravings are all recognizable traits of Buccellati jewelry, and this highly distinguishable “Buccellati style” has become the ultimate symbol of Italian luxury and glamour. Read on to learn more about the art of Buccellati jewelry and its generational success.
The History of Buccellati
Mario Buccellati was born in 1891 in Ancona, Italy. Abandoned by his father at an early age, he moved with his mother to Milan in 1903, where, at just twelve years old, he became an apprentice goldsmith at the renowned jewelry firm Beltrami e Besnati.
After the interlude of the First World War, he returned to find that he no longer had a job; the firm he had worked at for so many years had been sold off. A year later, in 1919, he decided to open his own shop, taking over Beltrami e Besnati and christening it with the name “Mario Buccellati” — a move that would soon launch him to international fame.
Because of Mario’s extensive goldsmithing experience, he was able to oversee every stage of his jewelry production. He kept his artisans close to his artistic vision, inspiring them with new techniques and innovative designs. This direct management later became the key to Buccellati’s lasting success.
In 1920 Mario exhibited his jewelry at the Madrid Exposition. He quickly drew an interested crowd after hurling one of his valuable compacts out of a window yelling, “I am not a tradesman, I am a jeweler!” after a woman had insisted upon a discount. He not only sold all of his jewelry that day but also caught the attention of many wealthy clientele. Due to his success, in 1925 he opened a second store in Rome on the Via Condotti, and, only four years later, he opened a third store in Florence on the Via Tornabuoni.
Buccellati jewelry became popular among the royal houses in Europe. Queen Maria Cristina of Spain commissioned necklaces, tiaras, and all manner of precious objects from Buccellati, and soon even the Vatican turned to Mario. Pope Pius XIII commissioned an icon of the Madonna for Queen Elizabeth II’s sister, Princess Margaret. But perhaps Buccellati’s most devoted client was the famous poet, Gabriel D’Annunzio, who nicknamed Mario “the prince of goldsmiths.”
Even in times of hardship, Mario found a way to create exceptionally beautiful jewelry without compromising quality. During the war, when gold and silver were scarce, he crafted pieces out of “Dutch Gold,” which was copper plated with a golden-colored alloy. He also would re-use old, chipped stones, turning them upside down for a cabochon look. After the war, Mario set his sights on international expansion, and in 1951 opened his first store in the U.S. on 51st street.
All of Buccellati’s sons would join the family business, but it was Mario’s first son, Gianmaria, who inherited his father’s eye for design. He began working for the firm at fourteen and eventually took over management after his father’s death in 1965.
The Art of Buccellati
Buccellati jewelry is admired, above all, for its inspired design. Even today, every piece is almost entirely handcrafted, and the masterful manipulation of gold, and other precious metals, is what truly shines. Mario Buccellati sought the perfect marriage of materials, and he seldom used large, showy jewels. Instead, he opted for more unique stones such as cabochons that complemented his goldwork.
Instead of following popular trends, Mario sought to bring back models of the past. He pulled inspiration for his jewelry from Roman architecture, ancient Etruscan designs, Renaissance fabrics and the nature and wildlife of Italy.
Inspired by intricate Venetian lace and honeycomb, Mario Buccellati revived the ancient art of traforato, which allowed diamonds and jewels to be mounted in a highly ornate setting with bezels. He often made this technique of metal piercing even more dramatic with the use of both silver and gold for high contrast.
Of all the techniques employed by Buccellati, the art of rigato is perhaps what the firm is most famous for. A technique involving delicate line engraving, it transforms the surface of the metal, giving it a fine, fabric-like texture.
Buccellati elevated silversmithing to the same level of sophistication as their fine jewelry creations. Working with incredible intricacy and precision, the firm aimed to produce silver objects not only inspired by nature but truly embodying the essence of the specimen they were imitating. From the beautiful fragility of a flower petal to the refined symmetry of a nautilus shell, Buccellati takes silver workmanship to a new level of artistry and imagination.
Silver Poppy Salt and Pepper Shakers by Buccellati
Silver Nautilus Centerpiece by Buccellati