Guest editor Annoushka Ducas meets the Italian brand’s head designer.
Professional Jeweller Guest Editor Annoushka Ducas discusses traditional goldsmithing techniques, inspiration and future development with Buccellati’s head designer Andrew Buccellati.
Guest editor Annoushka Ducas has long admired the work of Italian jewellery house Buccellati, known for its richly textured gold jewellery and intricate use of diamonds and coloured gemstones.
With a history that dates back to the mid-18th century, the Italian company remains in family hands and is today overseen by Gianmaria Buccellati and Andrea Buccellati, the son and grandson of Mario Buccellati, who launched Buccellati as a brand in the early 1900s.
With the help of Andrea’s brother and sister Gino Buccellati, who oversees the company’s production of silver jewellery, and Maria Cristina Buccellati, who in charge of marketing, the brand aims to create jewellery with discretion, class and harmony.
Presently, Buccellati’s fine jewellery is designed by Gianmaria and Andrea, who work together on sketches before sitting down with their goldsmiths to discuss the fabrication, materials and scale of each piece. The brand’s jewellery is split into four sectors covering fine jewellery, unique pieces, silver and watches.
Its high jewellery collections are said to represent the finest examples of gold artistry, with pieces adorned with cascades of diamonds or gemstones, some of which takes months to produce.
Then there is the Buccellati Collection, a contemporary range that, while still forged using the most traditional of techniques, also boasts more directional design repertoire, made with the modern woman in mind.
The company also has the Buccellati Museum, not a lofty space dedicated to ancient pieces, but a collection that features only the most exceptional, one-of-a-kind designs created by the brand, inspired by mythology and co-owned by Gianmaria Buccellati and a set of private collectors.
Finally there are its watches – first launched in 2000 – crafted with Swiss movements but decorated with names that again evoke mythology, a theme represented across many of the brand’s collections.
Today the company operates between a head office and gold jewellery facility in Milan and its silver jewellery manufactory in Valbrono, near Como.
For this month’s issue, Ducas spoke exclusively with Buccellati head designer Andrea Buccellati about the company’s origins, recruiting young talent and the opening of standalone boutiques around the world.
Annoushka Ducas: The family business was started by your grandfather last century. Tell me about the origins of the firm and where Buccellati’s Renaissance and Baroque influence came from?
Andrea Buccellati: The family business was started by my grandfather Mario: he was a hard worker, with much discipline, but he was also very creative, and this is what helped him at the beginning of his career. He has influenced and inspired all the Buccellati generations until now. His creative sources mainly were Italian Renaissance patterns and styles, but he also revived the baroque designs and shapes.
AD: What are you inspired by and how do you develop new designs to keep Buccellati moving forward?
AB: The source of our inspiration is in nature. Nothing is more perfect than nature, with its leaves, flowers and colours. And moreover, nature is contemporary. Once I have the inspiration of a design, I have my small sketchpad where I sketch the jewel with my pencils of different softness. The drawing is always life-size, and I keep on adding details until I get what I really had in mind. It is a patient and meticulous work. As a general concept, beauty inspires me: beauty in architecture, in lace, in women. They all inspire me in their own way.
AD: In the past you have talked about the contrast of full and empty spaces in the designs of Buccellati. What are the signatures of your style and where are they best appreciated?
AB: One of the most important marks of the Buccellati style is the engraving technique: it comes from Renaissance times and it is still made by hand, using ancient tools. Every Buccellati jewel is engraved, and this renders gold as soft as a fabric and as precious as silk. Our goldsmiths’ techniques are appreciated all over the world: we have a unique style and admirers recognise it.
AD: How do you recruit new talent to your workshops?
AB: We have very young people who come to work in our workshops as apprentices, and many of them have remained after their training period to work as part of our staff.
AD: How common are the traditional goldsmithing techniques you employ and how do you maintain these skills?
AB: Actually our goldsmithing techniques are not common. My father Gianmaria Buccellati is the only one who still bases his style on our engraving and honeycomb techniques [whereby a goldsmith saws miniature holes using a saw blade in a pentagon shape, exemplified by the Ornato designs shown here], so it is quite difficult to maintain these skills. It involves intense and hard training, and an even longer period of work experience to become a professional and really skilled artisan at Buccellati.
AD: How do you work together as a family? And are outsiders allowed into the management of the business?
AB: We are all working together, each one taking care of a sector of the company. Of course, we have lots of things to discuss, but we always get to the right solution. At the moment, there is new growth in our management, mostly composed of outsiders, and I think this will be the right way to develop Buccellati in the future.
AD: How do you feel about opening Buccellati shops around the world? Do you think it takes away from your origins and risks making Buccellati just another global luxury brand?
AB: Opening shops around the world has always been important for the Buccellati brand, and we think we will continue to open them. We have just inaugurated a new store in Chicago, and there are plans to spread our presence in many other countries. I do not think store openings impact our craft origins: they remain the same and our clients will always be offered the best made in Italy creations; it is a part of our mission as a company.
This Q&A was taken from the January Guest Editor issue of Professional Jeweller, led by Annoushka Ducas. To read the issue in full online, click here.