Setting The Finest Stones
Prestige Hong Kong|January 2018

Lucia Silvestri of Bulgari tells Timothy Coghlan what it’s like to be one of the most influential women in jewellery.

Timothy Coghlan

During her 30 years with Bulgari, Lucia Silvestri has established herself as an industry powerhouse, becoming the first person outside the famed jewellery clan to be trusted to buy gems for the brand, and rising to the rank of creative director. Hunting for exquisite stones to add to the jeweller’s glistening portfolio, she bestrides the treasure map of the world, sourcing important stones from Jaipur to Geneva and from Sri Lanka to Cambodia. Now, her well stamped passport bears another emblem – that of China where, in Beijing, the glamorous Italian talked about her adventures in the gem trade.

Can you give us an overview of your job?

Here in front of us we have a small table covered with different gemstones, an example of my working table in Rome, and this is the starting point of the high jewellery [design] process. When we work with diamonds we start from an idea, a suggestion or an inspiration. When we work with coloured gems we have to start from the gems and create the design around them. My job is to find the gems and then put them together into jewellery pieces. So, I travel around the world to try and find inspiration and the best stones in the world.

When designing the jewellery it’s very important for me to be back in Rome, sitting in my office, in my comfort zone, to feel the Roman atmosphere, the Roman colours, and to collect my ideas.

I start to play with the stones and test different combinations of colours to see how they can form a necklace, for instance. Here I have a bag of fancy coloured sapphires from Sri Lanka that I just bought. I pour them out and start to move them around to play with different designs; and this is the starting point for a Bulgari necklace. The design process for each piece is quite long and could take between one and three months, depending on whether we’re happy with the concept, with the harmony of the colours, and with the shape.

Would you find all these stones for one piece of jewellery in one trip?

No, from different trips. It depends on the stones. For example, these gems are from three different trips: I found the sapphires in Sri Lanka, the chalcedony in Jaipur and these others in Hong Kong,

Are the stones already cut and polished when you buy them or do you work on them yourself?

It depends. They present me with the stones in a native way. Sometimes I like the fact that they’re natural and in some way uneven or irregular. Sometimes I need them to be more regular, more elegant, or to make the stones more “Bulgari style”, and so I have them recut.

What was your first big adventure collecting gems for Bulgari?

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