Lucrezia Buccellati is looking to the oceans for her famous firm’s future, says Harriet Mays Powell...
Founded in 1919, the Italian jewellery firm Buccellati is steeped in heritage, using techniques that date back to the Renaissance. Yet the brand’s co-creative designer, 28-year-old Lucrezia Buccellati, is far from old fashioned. She is the first woman to design for the company, and the only Buccellati based in New York.
Today, she is wearing a single accessory: a pair of gold filigree earrings. They aren’t Buccellati, she says, although agrees that they are reminiscent of the company’s designs. In fact, they cost only $200 but they have sentimental value as they were the first gift of jewellery from her now husband, gallery owner David Wildenstein, who saw them at a boutique in Aspen.
Recently, thanks to her privileged access to the art world, she was able to persuade her father to collaborate on a line of jewellery inspired by masterpieces owned by Wildenstein & Co. The resulting collection, Timeless Blue, interprets seascape paintings: specifically Monet’s Storm off the Coast of Belle-Île, in a pair of diamond-encrusted earrings designed by Andrea Buccellati; and Winslow Homer’s Light Blue Sea at Prout’s Neck as a bracelet of diamond-accented waves in white gold, designed by herself. “A lot of our jewellery has a relationship with the ocean,” she says. “For example, our Hawaii earrings were inspired by its chain of Pacific islands.” The differences in the designs underscore the generational divide. Lucrezia describes her father’s earrings as “in the classic Buccellati style, while my bracelet is more modern, looser, but still retaining the brand’s DNA.”
Lucrezia was born in Miami and “the ocean is my therapy,” she tells me. “Miami, the Hamptons, the Caribbean; any chance to be near the water I take it. It always puts a smile on my face.” Another connection to the sea came recently when Leonardo Ferragamo, chairman of Nautor’s Swan, asked Buccellati to design the cup for the Nations Trophy yacht race, held for the first time in Mallorca last October. Exhibiting the detailed traditional engraving for which Buccellati is renowned, the silver and lapis lazuli trophy features three swans encircling the base, beneath a chalice with an undulating design evocative of waves. “I love the look and shape of the Nautor’s Swan trophy,” she says. “It epitomises the grace of nature and craftsmanship of Buccellati silver. My father did an incredible job capturing the movement of the waves. It was such an honour to be asked to do it.”
She worked with her father, Andrea, on her successful debut collection, Blossoms, the company’s first silver jewellery line, which incorporates the brand’s signature textured designs at a lower price point. She describes them as being inspired by “so many things, not just by art history, but by nature, by fabric… I like to think outside the box.”
Four years ago, when she married a scion of the Wildenstein international art family, the couple became instant fixtures on New York’s social circuit. With homes in New York, Connecticut and Long Island, plus winter sojourns in Florida and frequent international travel, Lucrezia admits that she now craves a normal life, saying that she “loves the energy of New York, but Litchfield is my cocoon, and as a mother I need peace. I just like to be normal, simple and quiet.” An avid horsewoman, she rides in the Hampton Classic each summer.
So, what jewellery defines Lucrezia Buccellati’s personal style? “You need punto luce, a little light spot,” she says, adding that her favourite pieces are “those that I wear every day, even when riding. I am obsessed with pendants, and I also love to wear stacks of our Macri bracelets. Also, our new Hawaii earrings, with lapis stones, because they look so modern. But they were actually designed by my great grandfather at the turn of the last century! My engagement ring is a sapphire, which is my favourite stone, partly because it reminds me of the ocean.”
Tastes have changed, she says, adding that up until only five years ago Buccellati would sell entire suites — earrings, necklace, bracelet — as a package. You could not buy the earrings unless you bought the necklace. But today “you wear Zara with Gucci, Balenciaga with H&M. And that’s how I wear it. I think it makes it more original to each person, creating a personal style.”
As it approaches its centennial under new ownership – China’s Gansu Gangtai Holding Group acquired a controlling 85 per cent share of Buccellati last year – the challenge for the brand is to retain its loyal fan base while appealing to the next generation of customers. “They are expecting a lot from us,” Lucrezia says. “They want us to be special. We were very weak in Asia. That’s why they were interested in us. They want to offer customers something different. We don’t use machines and everything is finished by hand. That’s why we will always stay unique.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of the Boat International US Edition.