Complete History of Mario Buccellati February 11, 2021 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog
Mario Buccellati was one of the most remarkable Italian jewelers of the 20th century. His unique designs paying tribute to goldsmiths of the Renaissance have gained the admiration of both clients and jewelry experts. Today, over fifty years after his death, the tradition of Buccellati’s family continues under the same, well-recognized name.
Read on to find out the complete history of Mario Buccellati – from the early years to the peak of his fame. Discover what makes Buccellati’s creations so special, what he has taught his children, and what’s happening with the company now.
- How Mario Started
- The Rise of Buccellati
- Maintaining Traditions
- The Unique Style of Mario Buccellati
- Buccellati Manufacture Today
- A Deserved Triumph
How Mario Started
Born in 1891 in Ancona, Mario Buccellati became involved in jewelry manufacturing in his early years. The dawn of Buccellati’s family business dates back to the mid-eighteenth century when Contardo Buccellati worked as a goldsmith in Milan. In 1903, Mario started an apprenticeship at Beltrami & Beltrami. In 1914, Mario joined Italian forces during World War I, proving himself to be a strong fighter, as well as a talented jeweler. Five years later, he came back to discover that Beltrami & Beltrami had shut down. Mario bought out and took over the firm, renaming it to Buccellati. He opened the first boutique on Largo Santa Margherita in Milan the same year.
In “Mario Buccellati: Prince of Goldsmiths”, Martina Corgnati records a noteworthy occurrence from the start of the jeweler’s career. In 1920, at Madrid’s Jewelry Exposition, Mario threw a valuable compact out of a window, exclaiming that he’s not a tradesman. The reason was that a buyer has requested a discount. The very next day, people curious to find out what was so special about Buccellati’s creations crowded the boutique.
The Rise of Buccellati
In the following years, Mario Buccellati opened more jewelry boutiques across Italy, including Rome and Florence. In 1929, the first son of Mario Buccellati, Gianmaria Buccellati, was born. He later became a worthy successor of his father and took over the family business, along with three out of his four brothers.
European royal families, the Pope and his Cardinals were among Buccellati’s clients. A poet Gabrielle D’Annunzio, a friend and, perhaps, the most devoted admirer of his art, used to call the jeweler “the Prince of Goldsmiths” and “the Perfect Bowl Master”. Some pieces created by Mario Buccellati are still a part of the family collection – for example, a crystal necklace made for Eleonora Duse, an Italian actress. In 1949, Pope Pious XIII honored Mario Buccellati to design an icon for Princess Margaret, who visited the Vatican that year.
As time passed, Buccellati’s fame increased outside of Italy. In 1951, Mario Buccellati opened the first store in New York, with the help of his son Luca. Only three years later, he opened the second store on Fifth Avenue.
Mario Buccellati passed away in 1967, leaving behind a large family. Thankfully, the master had taught his children everything he knew, and the manufacturing secrets still get passed on to new generations. His sons split the business – Lorenzo and Frederico stayed in Italy to manage the local stores, while Luca and Gianmaria took over stores in the United States. Buccellati jewelry manufacture started to expand quickly in the following ten years, with new locations appearing in Hong Kong, Japan, Paris, and Monte Carlo.
In 1973, Gianmaria Buccellati founded the Italian Gemological Institute. The institute specialized in grading finished jewelry pieces, various types of gemstones, and diamonds. The Italian Gemological Institute was the first organization to develop grading standards for “Hearts & Arrows” cut diamonds.
Later, Mario Buccellati’s grandchildren joined the family business. One of the grandchildren, Andrea, noted in an interview with British Vogue that techniques used in Buccellati manufacturing were always different from that of other brands. Each generation has remained faithful to the traditions created by Mario Buccellati. Even nowadays, Mario’s grandchildren are practicing the same manufacturing methods. Under the management of younger Buccellati family members, the business has expanded to London, Moscow, Capri, Sydney, and other locations.
The Unique Style of Mario Buccellati
What exactly is so unique about Buccellati jewelry? One of the most distinctive characteristics of the brand’s design is the texture of the precious metals used. Mario Buccellati had mastered the art of making metal resemble a fabric with the help of engraving and piercing techniques. Often, gold and silver pieces created by Buccellati didn’t even have any gemstones, being fine art on their own. Another common design feature is the mix of different precious metals.
Engraving techniques used by Buccellati are antique and rarely used by other brands. Rigato, featuring parallel lines engraved into a surface in order to create a soft sheenis, perhaps, the most recognizable one. Other texturing styles include engraving in all directions, creating different designs in three dimensions and, nature-inspired shapes.
The artist drew ideas from Renaissance art and architecture of the XV-XVI centuries. Each creation of the master features rich motifs such as curls, a mix of geometric shapes, mosaics, lace, and florals. Mario Buccellati has invented a mosaic-like technique for processing precious metals, which became another signature of his style. Luca Buccellati said in an interview – “You won’t find a polished piece in our collection. Never. We are crazy about details.”
Buccellati Manufacture Today
Today, the predecessors of Mario Buccellati maintain his legacy well. The first exhibition in honor of the master was held in 1995 in San Francisco. Since that time, Buccellati jewelry pieces have been presented at exhibitions around the world. In 2001, Gianmaria Buccellati launched a watch collection, of course, in the brand’s unique style, featuring ornaments, engravings, and fine details.
In 2013, an Italian equity fund, Clessidra, bought the majority of the company’s stakes. However, the Buccellati family members remain involved in each process of the business. Furthermore, every designer that has ever worked at Buccellati is a family member. Lucretia Buccellati, the current designer, is the first woman in the company to be responsible for jewelry concept creation. With Lucretia, the company has started to undergo some changes – for example, Buccellati has launched their first engagement ring collection and even started to produce prestigious iPhone covers made of gold. Even though the firm has expanded the product range, Buccellati still produces exquisite works of jewelry art.
A Deserved Triumph
The history of Mario Buccellati proves that his place in the jewelry world is well-deserved. The secret of the company’s success is in preserving family traditions. Younger generations of the Buccellati family use techniques developed by Mario Buccellati to this day. Maria Christina Buccellati said in her interview with British Vogue – “It’s timeless; we don’t follow fashion.” This perfectly illustrates the main concept of the company – Buccellati creates works of art, rather than jewelry pieces that can be worn on an everyday basis. Hopefully, the extraordinary techniques and skills of Mario Buccellati will continue to be passed on to younger generations for many years to come.
To view our entire collection of rare signed rings, including our Buccellati Rings, click here.