Italian Jewels: Bulgari Style at NGV

I’m particularly excited to share this event with you as I was fortunate to attend a similar exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco back in 2013. The entire show simply dripped with references to Elizabeth Taylor, who was one of the brand’s most high profile devotees, and one of history’s most glamorous creatures. The chance to watch footage of Liz wearing diamonds and emeralds the size of your fist, and then being able to ogle the actual pieces she wore is a mesmerising and unforgettable experience. That is, if you like your bling large, and your actresses classique.

From 30 September, a dazzling exclusive -to-NGV selection of around eighty jewels from the Bulgari Heritage Collection, aforementioned emerald and diamond jewellery from Elizabeth Taylor‘s personal collection and a ruby and diamond necklace worn by Sophia Loren will be showcased in Italian Jewels: Bulgari Style at NGV International in Melbourne.

The V.I.P.s (1963)Directed by Anthony Asquith Shown: Elizabeth Taylor
The V.I.P.s (1963) Directed by Anthony Asquith Shown: Elizabeth Taylor

Selected from Bulgari’s remarkable archives, the pieces highlight the Italian design house’s longstanding relationships with stars of Hollywood and Italian cinema, throughout the Dolce Vita period of the 50s and 60s, when Rome was a popular shoot location for Hollywood productions, some of which will be featured in the exhibition by way of footage and photography stills. Tony Ellwood, Director of NGV said:

‘Italian Jewels: Bulgari Style illustrates the bold design aesthetic of Bulgari through a selection of exquisite gems worn by iconic stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Ingrid Bergman. The exhibition thematically explores design motifs for which the firm is best known – the serpent, ancient coins and striking color combinations, among others.’

Necklace in platinum with emeralds and diamonds, 1962. Magnificent necklace in platinum and emeralds of 1962. It is mounted with 16 step-cut octagonal Colombian emeralds for an estimated total of 60.50 carats, each in a surround of brilliant-cut and pear-shaped diamonds. Taylor received it as a wedding gift from her husband Richard Burton in 1964. The pendent element with the step-cut Colombian emerald of 23.44 carats, created by Bulgari in 1958 as a brooch, was given to Elizabeth Taylor by Burton for their engagement in 1962 and worn by the actress in their wedding day in 1964. The actress was then immortalized in the necklace in 1966, when she received the Oscar as best actress. Marks: on the reverse of the clasp: “BVLGARI” engraved.

Italian Jewels: Bulgari Style the exhibition will showcase the glamour of a Golden Age of cinema and design, and represents Bulgari’s constant experimentation and inimitable aesthetic codes, which are ever evolving.

Some of the highlights include jewels given to Elizabeth Taylor by her paramour and fifth husband, Richard Burton – when their love affair first began in Rome, he presented her with an emerald ring on the set of Cleopatra (1963).

Also on display will be iconic Bulgari creations adorned by leading ladies like Grace Kelly, Anita Ekberg and Gina Lollobrigida, as well as stunning red carpet jewels worn by the likes of Keira Knightley.

Sautoir in gold with yellow and blue sapphires, agate, citrines and diamonds, ca 1972. The sautoir is designed as a gold chain of filed curb linking decorated at intervals with oval elements alternatively set with cabochon sapphires and citrines, the front supports a circular pendant set at the centre with a cushion-shaped yellow sapphire within a border of brilliant-cut diamonds, shaped banded blue agate, four cabochon sapphires and brilliant-cut diamonds, the pendant may be detached and worn separately as a brooch. Pendant engraved: BVLGARI 750 (in a lozenge). Chain stamped on the clasp: BVLGARI 750. NB clip fitting on the clasp.

The story of Bulgari began more than a century ago, when Greek silversmith Sotirio Bulgari travelled to Rome to seeking his fortune, opening his first shop in 1884. Bulgari rose to become an empire of Italian excellence and creativity, favoured by royalty, actresses and high society, it was and remains quite the status symbol. Drawing inspiration from its Greek and Roman heritage, signature Bulgari pieces have a distinct OTT style that combines tradition with innovation, and oozes style and self assurance.

Italian Jewels: Bulgari Style will be on display at NGV International from 30 September 2016 – 29 January 2017. Open daily, 10am-5pm. Entry is free.

Necklace in gold with emeralds, rubies, sapphires and diamonds, 1967. The front decorated with 10 large floral clusters set with 25 cabochon sapphires for a total of ca. 67 carats; 71 cabochon emeralds ca. 48 carats (total); 88 cabochon rubies ca. 75 carats (total); 348 brilliant-cut diamonds ca. 22.5 carats (total). The back formed of similarly set foliate motifs. Marks: on the tongue-piece: “BVLGARI” engraved; inside the clasp: “750”; “eagle’s head”; “SC”; lozenge with “R / star / D /”.

Public Program

Italian Jewels: Bulgari In Conversation
Wed 28 Sep, 6pm for 6.30pm start

A favourite of style icons Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly, the name Bulgari is synonymous with Italian glamour. Learn about the history and creative design behind the brand’s exquisite jewellery as Lucia Boscaini, Brand and Heritage Curator, Bulgari speaks in conversation with NGV curators Paola Di Trocchio and Amanda Dunsmore.

Speakers Lucia Boscaini, Brand and Heritage Curator, Bulgari; Paola Di Trocchio, Curator, Fashion and Textiles, NGV; and Amanda Dunsmore, Senior Curator, International Decorative Arts and Antiquities, NGV. Cost Free, bookings required. Venue Clemenger BBDO Auditorium, Ground level, NGV International


The V.I.P.s (1963) Directed by Anthony Asquith Shown: Elizabeth Taylor
Need to know:

  • Italian Jewels: Bulgari Style is on at NGV International, St Kilda Rd Melbourne from 30 Sept 2016 – 29 Jan 2017
  • Entry is FREE
  • The Italian Jewels: Bulgari In Conversation Public Program takes place on Wed 28 Sep, 6pm for 6.30pm start at Clemenger BBDO Auditorium, Ground level, NGV International. It is free to attend, but bookings are required.
  • The exhibition is made possible by the National Gallery of Victoria in collaboration with Bulgari Heritage.



For more information, please visit the NGV website.

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