The history behind Bvlgari's iconic Serpenti collections
In a tale of evolving magnetic metamorphosis, Bvlgari’s Serpenti designs have now been around for over 70 years. After all this time, the iconic symbol has become synonymous to the brand's identity, but where did it all begin?
The original design was first created in the 1940s as silver Serpenti pieces by Sotirio Georgis Bulgari who combined elements of the Byzantine and Islamic traditions with allegorical, floral and foliate motifs. Innovative, ahead of its time and very hard to forget, the original silver Tubogas style quickly garnered a cult following which lead Bulgari to be inspired to create more passionate reinventions of the OG style.
Just as the snake continuously sheds its skin, Bulgari’s reptile design is constantly evolving. Renditions of the original design are still being made to this day (including the latest Viper collection) even making its way onto necklaces, rings, handbags belts and other accessories from the house. The first clear evolution of the design took place in the 1950s when the sleek Serpenti unveiled its extravagant side, embellished by a precious head with eyes in rubies, emeralds and diamonds that concealed the dial.
From the mid-1950s, alongside the abstract Tubogas pieces, Bulgari began to experiment with more naturalistic designs, specifically reinterpretations of the head shape. The designs exploded into popularity with the help of Elizabeth Taylor who wore one of the first gem-set ‘secret’ Serpenti watches ever made by Bulgari on the set of Cleopatra while filming in Rome.
Since Elizabeth's showcase on screen in the 1960s, the Serpenti pieces have appeared in countless forms but most famously as bracelets (some with watches, some without) that wrap around the wrist multiple times.
Serpenti pieces are the ultimate jewellery power play, instantly recognisable on the wrist, finger or neck. As the mid-late 1960s came into play, the scales grew to cover the livery, and were constantly changing in size, colour, and material, playing with striking chromatic combinations of materials.
Just like the seductive serpent from Greek mythology, Bvlgari’s newest rendition of Serpenti, the Viper collection (see below and previously above on Charlize Theron), effortlessly coils around the wearer with its precious metal scales, much like the reptile itself would, inviting a stackable styling cue for the millennial Bvlgari fan.
As you can imagine, many, many versions of the Bulgari Serpenti exist. Because everything was hand-made from scratch by multiple incredibly skilled craftsmen over the years, no two pieces are exactly the same and many different case shapes subsist. In fact, there are rumoured to be over 1000 sketches existing in Bulgari’s archives.
In more recent years, (like the recent Viper collection) the Serpenti line has continued to morph into more abstract interpretations, sublimating the snake’s magnetic scales into a highly contemporary hexagonal pattern. With each of them, the house boasts an unmistakable design that takes shape into the precious leitmotif of snake-inspired High Jewellery masterpieces, where each element is assembled together to convey the sinuous sensuality of a precious skin.
It’s not surprising that Bulgari’s most famous heritage design is an ancient Roman animal motif that represents fertility, rebirth, and protection against the evil spirits. Serpents are one of the oldest and most famous mythological and theological symbols and continue to remain a relevant and much-loved motif in the 21st Century.
While all stemming from the same design DNA, oddly enough Serpenti will never be the same again. With every decade comes creative rebirths that synthetize the distinctive Serpenti trademarks that made Bvlgari’s style legendary and will continue to cement in the future. The Serpenti necklaces, rings, bracelets, timepieces will forever slither in a voluptuous embrace like its predecessors in new exciting reincarnations.
This is one snake that will stand the test of time.