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Buccellati Biography and Important Works
In 1919, Mario Buccellati (1891–1965) launched his eponymous jewelry house with the opening of his first shop in Milan and quickly built a reputation for his richly embellished traforato, or finely pierced goldwork. The Ancona, Italy–born jeweler’s workmanship was in a class of its own. His pieces were exquisite, yet the gemstones themselves were never too flashy, elevated instead by the designs’ intricate metalsmithing.
A love of tradition set Mario and his fine jewelry house apart in the competitive Italian market and remains a point of pride for the family, which is still closely tied to the business even as it is now owned by Richemont, a luxury conglomerate that also counts Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels among its subsidiaries.
A young Mario Buccellati apprenticed with famed goldsmith Beltrami e Besnati in the early 1900s, although many of the goldsmithing techniques synonymous with Buccellati go as far back as the Italian Renaissance. The family lineage is also said to include 18th-century jeweler Contardo Buccellati. Owing to the founder’s advanced metalworking skills, the brand is known for designs that feature metal with the delicacy of lace and draw on the wonders of the natural world. The house’s work is typified by intricate gemstone settings that emphasize their natural color and dense engraving techniques that transform the texture of gold.
One of the time-honored engraving techniques that has come to characterize Buccellati’s work — techniques that require apprenticeships and training in the fine jeweler’s workshops — is called rigato. It involves the engraving of a precious metal with a series of parallel lines to achieve a fabric-like effect. Rigato is on luminous display in the house’s Macri collection of earrings, cuff bracelets and other accessories. A painstaking attention to detail is pronounced in the celebrated Macri, Bartolomeo and Unica collections — witness the striking honeycomb motif, a house signature, that characterizes the Unica collection’s Caterina bracelet, for example. The Macri collection was the work of Mario’s son, Gianmaria Buccellati, an award-winning jeweler and internationally renowned silversmith who worked to bring the brand to the global stage by overseeing the opening of boutiques in Tokyo, Paris, California and elsewhere.
In 1951, Mario opened his first store in New York City; today the company operates boutiques worldwide. In 2019, the company celebrated its centennial with a new flagship in Paris and a Vintage Collection that features some of its most enduring designs.
Finding the Right Necklaces for You
We are fortunate to know much of the world’s long and dazzling history of necklaces, as this type of jewelry was so treasured that it was frequently buried with its owners.
Lapis lazuli beads adorned necklaces unearthed from the royal graves at the ancient Iraqi civilization of Sumer, while the excavation of King Tut’s burial chamber revealed a sense of style that led to a frenzy of Art Deco designs, with artisans of the 1920s seeking to emulate the elegant work crafted by Ancient Egypt’s goldsmiths and jewelry makers.
In ancient times, pendant necklaces worn by royalty and nobles conferred wealth and prestige. Today, wearing jewelry is about personal expression: Luxury diamond necklaces exude confidence and can symbolize the celebratory nature of a deep romantic relationship, while paper-clip chain-link necklaces designed by the likes of goldsmith Faye Kim are firmly planted in the past as well as the present. Kim works exclusively with eco-friendly gold, and these fashionable, fun accessories owe to the design of 19th-century watch fobs.
For some, necklaces are thought of as being a solely feminine piece, but this widely loved accessory has been gender-neutral for eons. In fact, just as women rarely took to wearing a single necklace during the Renaissance, men of the era layered chains and valuable pendants atop their bejeweled clothing. In modern times, the free-spirited hippie and counterculture movements of the 1960s saw costume-jewelry designers celebrating self-expression through colorful multistrand necklaces and no shortage of beads, which were worn by anyone and everyone.
Even after all of these years, the necklace remains an irrefutable staple of any complete outfit. Although new trends in jewelry are constantly emerging, the glamour and beauty of the past continue to inform modern styles and designs. In a way, the cyclical history of the necklace differs little from its familiar looped form: The celebrated French jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels found much inspiration in King Tut, and, now, their Alhambra collection is a go-to for modern royals. Vintage necklaces designed by David Webb — whose work landed him on the cover of Vogue in 1950, two years after opening his Manhattan shop — were likely inspired by the ornamental styles of ancient Greece, Mesopotamia and Egypt.