The life story of Lucia Silvestri is nothing less than a fairy tale, or at least that is what it seems like from far away. The Chief Gems Buyer and Creative Director of Bvlgari has had an illustrious career spanning over four decades. Travelling the world, interacting with countless people, handling state of the art jewels, and being mentored by members of the Bvlgari family, she has experienced it all.
Our effort, once again, is to make watch afficionados aware about personalities such as herself. Let’s begin, shall we?
Lucia Silvestri, The Maestro Behind Bvlgari Gems and Jewelry
Lucia Silvestri was just 18 years old when she joined Bvlgari and began her career with the luxury goods brand. She joined the company’s gemological department. It was almost love at sight. Lucia got fascinated by the world of precious stones and there was no looking back. She got enamored by the colors, the variety of stones, the energy that she felt. It was nothing short of magic. She was the right person, at the right time, at the right place. This was true as the Bvlgari brothers swiftly recognized her potential and decided to teach her the trade.
At 20, an age when most people are trying get a hang of life, Lucia began traveling the world. She began meeting the various gemological experts around the world. She interacted with numerous people from the realm of jewellery. These were people with knowledge handed down to them through multiple generations. Geneva, New York, Antwerp, Jaipur, Colombo, it was a rollercoaster of unforgettable discoveries that eventually turned into experience as well as expertise.
On the 1st of June 2013, Lucia Silvestri was appointed as Bvlgari’s Jewellery Creative Director. A feat achieved after decades of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication. This only further cemented her passion and love for gemstones. In her own words, “One of my greatest challenges as a Creative Director, is to remain true to Bvlgari’s identity and design signature, constantly reinterpreting the esthetic codes for women that are never the same.”
Lucia Silvestri was an 18-year old biology student whose father worked at Bulgari. It was he who suggested that she take a secretarial job at the firm just to help out during her holidays. The gig was supposed to last for about four months.
Today, 40 years later, nothing much has changed. Lucia is still there, right at the top.
“The first day I saw some loose, coloured gemstones on a table I instantly fell in love with them – their colour, their life, the energy that seemed to emanate from them,” says Lucia. Paolo Bulgari, thirty-something at the time started noticing Lucia and decided to invest in her. He needed a young person in the company and she was it.
In the Beginning
In the beginning, things were not as easy as one would think. Lucia was usually the only woman in the entire room. Dealers wouldn’t even look at her, let alone speak to her. That is how she describes her early days in the gem business. Eventually, Bvlgari decided that she was ready to make business trips alone. It was obvious that the brand as well as Paolo Bvlgari put a lot of trust in Lucia. She also mentioned how she would describe the bigger gems to him over a call prior to making the ultimate purchase.
Lucia Silvestri soon made herself known to be a tough negotiator. There is a substantial amount of grit under all that charm. One example of that grit, was an incident that happened in Jaipur. A dealer showed her a necklace of 25 cylinder-cut Zambian emeralds.
One look at the gems and she knew that they were something special. She hence suggested that the dealer cut them in half to let the light in. After a long grim silence, the dealer agreed. That’s how convincing and confident Lucia is about her beliefs and ideas.
The bracelet was eventually released with Bvlgari’s 2012 High Jewellery collection. The gems were named the ‘takhti cut’, which Bulgari introduced into European jewellery design through its Musa collection.
Adapting To Change
When the lockdown hot Italy in 2020, Silvestri felt like a tiger in a cage. As much as she enjoyed the online meetings and interacting with people at such a time of duress, she did miss the tangible aspect of her work. In her words, “I miss my trips a lot.” She further added, “I love to travel and I miss my previous life.”
Prior to the pandemic, Lucia has a rather peripatetic existence, typically travelling on alternate weeks from the Italian capital to the likes of Jaipur, Bangkok and New York. Her mission: sourcing and acquiring the colourful cabochon stones — from pink tourmaline to blue chalcedony — that have become the hallmark of the architectural designs by the quintessentially Roman jeweller.
Add the fact that Ms Silvestri is a leading female gem buyer in a male dominated industry and her resume becomes all the more impressive.
In the words of Lucia Silvestri, just as the long gem table in Bvlgari’s office is her blank canvas, the gem stones are her paint. “Everything starts from the gems,” this is the mantra that Bvlgari as well as Silvestri follow by heart. Times may have changed and with that the rules of the game may have been altered as well. But the trade remains the same.
Lucia still arranges the gemstones on wax-filled trays and then she experiments. Different shapes, colours, designs, all come in unison to form nothing but exemplary art.
“The Bvlgari Way”
‘The Bvlgari Way’ or the Bvlgari mantra is simple – It starts with the stones. But like all disciplines, it is not an absolute. There is a catch. As much as it is true, that it all starts with the gemstones, it is also true that the gems themselves are nothing. It needs a creative mind to recognize the art hidden in them. Design and craftsmanship play an equally important role in making the final product.
With Bvlgari, it is usually either of the two ways. The first approach is design oriented, the one seen in the case of the Bvlgari Serpenti and the Bvlgari Divas’ Dream. The artist sketches out the design and the gems are later chosen to suit the aesthetic of the idea.
In the case of jewelry, the domain that Lucia Silvestri is responsible for, the reality is otherwise. When the stones arrive on the Bvlgari design table, Lucia starts working on them. She starts by creating numerous colour combinations, very similar to the way a painter would mix colours on the colour palette. Finally, the designer will get to work. In this case, it is stones first and design second.