The Italian firm of Buccellati is famous for textural gold jewelry and exquisite silver objects. The main design accomplishments of the Buccellati firm span four decades: from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. The pieces are bold and instantly recognizable, with a style that references the great goldsmiths of the Renaissance. The most distinctive aspect of Buccellati pieces is the rich textural quality, Mario Buccellati was the first to introduce the technique of texture-engraving. The most renowned engraving techniques are rigato (parallel lines cut onto the surface of metal to obtain a sheen effect), telato (texture, obtained by fine cross-hatched lines, which imitates linen surface), segrinato (engraving in every possible directions, overlapping textures), ornato (decoration, based on nature forms: animals, leaves, flowers), modellato (the most delicate engraving technique, which consists of reproducing several designs chiseled in three dimensions on a minuscule scale, mainly used for the decorations of the borders). Pieces are created to look and feel like silk, damask, tulle, lace, or linen. Use of mixed metals (silver and gold, platinum and gold) is also typical. If gemstones are used at all, they are often unusual: large cabochons, carved emeralds and rubies, rose-cut diamonds.
According to family history, the Buccellati's first foray into the jewelry trade was in the mid-eighteenth century when Contardo Buccellati worked as a goldsmith in Milan. In 1903, Mario Buccellati revived the family tradition, apprenticing at Milan’s prestigious Beltrami & Beltrami at the age of twelve. In 1919, Buccellati took over the firm, changing its name to Buccellati. International acclaim quickly followed. While exhibiting at Madrid’s 1920 Exposition, Mario Buccellati caught the public’s attention when he hurled an expensive compact out a window when a woman asked for a discount, shouting, “I am not a tradesman!” The next day, hundreds turned up to look at his booth, curious to see the unknown jeweler’s pieces. Everything sold. Buccellati was then invited to exhibit his work at a solo show; Spanish aristocrats came in droves, including the royal family who became lifelong clients.
In the years that followed, Buccellati’s work gained a loyal following in Italy and abroad. Poet Gabriele D’Annunzio dubbed him “The Prince of Goldsmiths” and ordered pieces by the hundreds. As his five sons came of age, all but one entered the business: Frederico, Gianmaria, Luca, and Lorenzo. New stores were opened in Rome (1925) and Florence (1929). In 1951, Buccellati became first Italian jewelry designer with a location on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
In 1967, when Mario Buccellati died, the brothers split the business. The Buccellati tradition of precision and quality continues today. As Gianmaria Buccellati explained “The Buccellati concept focuses on beauty, art, class and the traditions of the past... Our jewels are entirely hand-made, with love, patience, and time by the best craftsmen in Italy... Our philosophy has never changed and never will; it represents the essence of our work.” Lorenzo and Frederico looked after the flagship stores in Italy. Luca and Gianmaria assumed control of stores in the United States, rapidly expanding to other locations in Hong Kong, (1970), Japan (1972), Monte Carlo (1976), and Paris (1979). The third generation has now assumed control of the firm and has continued to expand its international presence.