Just like its fashion, its food, and its culture, in Italian jewellery there is always a flair for the dramatic. Think bold, sculptural pieces crafted in solid 18K gold. Tactile, sensuous textures hammered by hand and in full contact with the skin. Festive, colourful gemstones selected for their ample sizes and unique qualities. But always with a nod to Italian roots. And as Lady Gaga’s riveting performance in House of Gucci repeatedly demonstrates, when it comes to Italian jewellery, more is always more.
Playing the role of Italian socialite Patrizia Reggiani aka Lady Gucci in her heydays, Gaga is as much a reason to watch the movie as the fashion—and of course the jewels—with numerous wardrobe changes throughout. Accompanying every look were the most decadent necklaces, statement bracelets, gem-encrusted earrings, and stacks of knuckleduster rings no matter where you find her.
Says jewellery expert, Brenda Kang, “When we think about Italian jewellery, the name Bulgari is the first to come to mind. They were not afraid to be bold and colourful, with a focus on gemstones of top quality.”
Fittingly, some of the key pieces worn on set came from Bulgari.
In one of the major moments of the movie, Gaga dressed in a shimmering gold sleeveless party dress and accessorised with one of Bulgari’s most iconic heritage jewellery pieces.
It is a stunning collar necklace from 1991—how very period-appropriate—set with lovely sugarloaf cut coloured stones. This truly fabulous piece of Italian design and craftsmanship was once famously owned by Princess Yasmin Aga Khan.
For that scene, Gaga also wore matching Bulgari heritage earrings, which were made just two years before the necklace, as well as two bracelets from the maison’s signature Tubogas collection.
“In general, Bulgari did conform to trends and design styles especially during the Art Deco and 40’s and 50’s but there were also many distinctive designs and trends which they had started and became the DNA of Bulgari,” Kang continues.
Translating to “gas pipe” in Italian, tubogas is one of the many chain-making techniques that define Italian jewellery design. Indeed, gold chains are an intrinsic part of Italian jewellery tradition, where numerous styles are now considered timeless.
Examples include the figaro chain, curb chain, the spiga or wheat chain, the snake chain, rope chain, even fascinatingly, a Gucci chain.
Meanwhile, in another scene within the movie, Gaga the femme fatale dressed in a sizzling red party frock with a deep v neckline that paired perfectly with a high jewellery Bulgari short necklace. A piece from the latest Bulgari Magnifica collection, it is crafted in platinum featuring 11 oval rubies as well as round brilliant and pavé set diamonds.
Staying consistent with the trends of the 90s, she matched the necklace with a pair of platinum and rubies diamond earrings.
“Another strong and distinctive Bulgari style from the 1950’s and 60’s, is the use of top quality precious cabochon cut gemstones with smooth diamond set contours, a frequent colour combination is with rubies and sapphires and emeralds,” adds Kang, who owns the vintage jewellery salon, Revival Jewels.
To Be Italian
Not every jewellery piece in the film was Bulgari, of course. But the signature touches of classic Italian jewellery design permeate through all of Gaga’s looks. Chunky collar necklaces make numerous appearances, and in a particularly memorable scene.
Wearing a form-fitting polka-dotted dress, Gaga with her 80s Flashdance hair and make-up crosses herself as she deadpanned, “Father, son, and House of Gucci.” Around her neck is this thick double-loop gold chain with an ornate centre-piece at her throat that’s dramatic, fashionable, and so very sexy.
Oozing all kinds of femme-fatale vibes, Gaga’s winning fashion and jewellery looks for the movie goes back to one key member of the crew: costume designer Janty Yates. Delving deep into the characters and the times they lived in, Yates sought to provide an authentic narrative through her costume designs.
“My director’s brief was to not go too ‘over the top,’ but to emphasise their character traits,” she said, referring to the input of Ridley Scott, with whom she has worked frequently, including on Gladiator for which she won an Academy Award.
“For Lady Gaga,” Yates went on, “who had said she wanted to be dressed like her Italian mama… I had her own archive and the glorious Gucci Archive to draw from.”
Other jewellery pieces in the movie that were quintessentially Italian include a spiga link gold chain bracelet Gaga wears with a fuchsia jacket with sequinned lapels. She also wears what appears to be a diamond and ruby collar necklace along with matching earrings with this look.
Then there is that beautifully scalloped diamond paved collar necklace Gaga fabulously stacked with an elegant diamond line lariat necklace. Yates might have consciously avoided going OTT with the costume design, but to any jewellery lover, there’s more bling on House of Gucci than any self-serving socialite could hope for.
Style of a People
Italian jewellers continue to define jewellery trends to this day. Bulgari is loved for its numerous era-defining high jewellery creations such as Magnifica, Barocko, Wild Pop, and Festa. Its classical fine jewellery collections too are fashion must-haves. Icons like the B.zero1, Tubogas, and Serpenti are recognisable from a mile away.
The traditional house of Buccellati also preserves more than 100 years of Italian design and style. Known for techniques and fine details that date back to the Renaissance, the Milanese firm’s breath-taking and time-honoured creations have been seen on celebrities like Rihanna, Alexa Chung, Jessica Alba.
Next to these grand maisons, Roberto Coin might appear to be a newcomer. But this audacious young jeweller has wowed many a jeweller lover with his dazzling creations featuring modern stones and finishes. His designs are modern and yet always connected to his Italian roots while allowing creativity and storytelling to lead the way.
Similarly, fourth generation fine jeweller Carolina Bucci crafted her brand identity from age-old Italian techniques. Her most iconic design aesthetic is a traditional Florentine goldsmithing technique, where gold pieces are hammered evenly and all over with a sharp tool. This leaves the gold with a fine shimmer that resembles freshly fallen snow.
Pushing the boundaries of classical Italian design, Pomellato embraces the familiar use of creativity and colour in its pieces while retaining a strong sense of everyday wearability. After all, it did introduce the prêt-à-porter philosophy to the traditionally conservative jewellery world since the late 1960s.
And speaking of pushing boundaries, few Italian labels have broached design frontiers as frequently and as unabashedly as Schiaparelli. Both in fashion as well as jewellery, this incredibly avant-garde designer has made pieces others wouldn’t even dream of, such as this outrageous lung necklace that Bella Hadid wore at Cannes 2021.
Indeed, fashion and jewellery have grown closer in recent years, particularly with the Italian houses. Gucci started to get serious with high jewellery and fine jewellery, on top of the popular fashion and silver jewellery it’s always been making. Prada and Giorgio Armani, too, are revving up their gameplans for fine and high jewellery, while Dolce & Gabbana continues to create ultra-niche but ultra-luxe high jewellery pieces for its couture collections, and had recently launched a new fine jewellery collection as well.
Whether they’re loud, flashy, and full of colours, or simple and discreet everyday pieces, Italian jewellery is always distinctive. More importantly, they are so much fun to wear because of that innate exuberance—that dolce vita élan if you will—that infuses everything from the designer to the gemstones to the jewellery, reiterating the unspoken message that Italians, well, they really just love being Italian.