Few jewels are more quintessentially Italian than those from the house of Buccellati, with its emphasis on textured gold, bold-colored gems, and nature themes. With both nature and gold peaking in popularity again, Buccellati jewels from all eras are looking mighty toothsome and bringing new interest at auction.
Buccellati jewels bring anywhere from $984 for a simple, elegant, gold leaf brooch that sold at Skinner last month to this gem-set cuff bracelet that went for $152,500 a couple years ago at Christie’s New York – on an estimate of $20,000-30,000. I obviously wasn’t the only one coveting this beauty.
More typical is the diamond-set cuff up for sale at Sotheby’s New York in two weeks (pictured below). Nobody does a hinged gold cuff like Buccellati – instantly recognizable, yet works with everything from a little black dress to your next trip down the red carpet. (We can dream, can’t we?) Cuffs offer a wide plane to show off the Buccellati specialty: luxuriously textured metals, gold made to look like fine fabric.
Why the range of prices? One key can be found in the marks. Italy does not have an assay office that issues hallmarks, but it does have a sophisticated system of maker’s marks, and Buccellati’s range from the “M. Buccellati” of Mario’s early days to “Buccellati, Italy.” Like all marks, they provide a key to the house’s history as well as the value and age of its jewels.
After a long apprenticeship with Milan’s Beltrami e Besnati, Mario Buccellati emerged a master goldsmith and opened his first shop in 1919. He quickly began attracting a high-rolling, international, often royal clientele. Four of his sons joined the family business and, in 1953, Buccellati established a Fifth Avenue outpost, first Italian jeweler to do so.
Although Buccellati remains a family business, things got a little complicated after Mario Buccellati died in 1965 and his offspring divided the business. Frederico Buccellati worked with his father and then ran the show in Milan and Rome for many years, while two of his brothers took over the U.S. business and expanded in other countries. Brother Gianmarie Buccellati then launched a separate business under his own name in 1971.
Four decades later, in 2011, the family managed to consolidate the brand again, and international outposts continue to appear as a new generation takes over. Last year, Buccellati attempted a rebranding effort with a new bridal collection and “high-tech” jewels, including the “world’s most expensive iPhone case,” patterned after that classic cuff.
What brings the most at auction are extra-special versions of Buccellati’s signature looks, created from the 1920s to the 1960s. Here are some highlights from the spring sales.
Buccellati Butterfly brooch Buccellati pearl flower brooch Buccellati “Thistle” brooch & ear clips Buccellati gold & diamond cuff Buccellati diamond-set gold cuff Mario Buccellati hoop earrings Buccellati gray pearl & diamond earrings.