Snakes have been a constant symbol throughout history from the Greeks, Romans, Aztecs and of course, how could we forget the Egyptians with the opulent tastes of the legendary Cleopatra. We can easily recall Cleopatra’s extravagance in the 1963 film Cleopatra starring a dazzling Elizabeth Taylor dressed head to toes in luxurious gems. Among them you may recall one-of-a-kind snake watch by Bulgari (with a diamond encrusted head and gold body). This particular model was the archetype that would later become one of Bulgari’s most coveted designs – the Serpenti. So, it’s no wonder that at the recent auction of the late actress’s jewels by Christies this item, estimated between 12,000 and 15,000 USD, was snapped up for the appreciable sum of 974,000 USD.
Since the 1960s Bulgari has presented the Serpenti in various versions in gold, enamel, paved with diamonds and other splendid gems. Dubbed ‘the year of the serpent’ by Bulgari, 2012 sees this fierce creature take over the spotlight with all its majesty. This season, the Serpenti has taken a jump from jewellery to leather goods, becoming a welcome ornament in a seductive new handbag collection.
Inside the Bulgari workshop, it all began with a sketch that then became a three-dimensional serpent head in brass. Each piece is meticulously enameled by expert artisans using the ‘fired enamel’ technique that was popular during the 1950s. In this process, enamel is applied one colour at a time, and fired at between 100° and 150° C, polished and fired a second time. The result is a flawless masterpiece with vibrant colours.
The best example of this precious technique is the minaudière (clutch) with its exquisite black and white pattern set in rich gold intarsia. It is a glowing spectacle and a testament to Bulgari’s exemplary craftsmanship.
Once the serpent forms are fired they are polished, gold plated and embellished with semi-precious stones. Each figure is then fixed onto the different handbags, all of which are made with the same standards of craftsmanship. Bulgari selects only the best quality calfskin leather for everyday use, in chalk, green and black. Karung snakeskin is ideal for more important occasions, in blue and beige. The larger handbags are in calfskin, with black, white and golden handles. Take a look at the evening line, which features adorable satin or leather pochettes.
Our advice? Visit your nearest Bulgari boutique, because you will truly appreciate the value of these bags when you feel the materials under your fingertips. Though Liz Taylor may not have been an expert in love, she did know to recognize a true gem and suffice to say Bulgari was among her most treasured.