Monday, June 16, 2014

Buccellati - Gifts from the Ocean

post by Christine Webb

On the evening of May 1, 2014, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History hosted an event sponsored by Buccellati, highlighting amazing pearl jewelry and honoring the Ocean Hall. The high jewelry pieces were one-of-a-kind and featured extremely rare and unique pearls.  The most important piece in the collection was the Gran Dama, a melo pearl brooch that Buccellati was very proud to share. It was an elegant black tie reception with delicious food, lovely music, and a distinguished group of over 200 guests - not to mention the astonishing Buccellati jewels.
The Gran Dama Melo Pearl Brooch - an 18k yellow, white and rose gold brooch celebrating motherhood, featuring a magnificent and exceedingly rare 24mm melo pearl from Vietnam and a drop-shaped South Sea pearl, accented with 549 colorless diamonds totaling 1.84ct and 1,259 fancy colored diamonds totaling 9.72ct. Buccellati's prize piece for the evening!
(photo by Orasa Weldon for GIA)
Examining the Gran Dama behind-the-scenes.  The rare melo pearl is produced by the Melo melo, a sea snail indigenous to southeast Asia.  The melo pearl is a natural pearl that is non-nacreous and most often round in shape. They are typically found in shades of orange, and less often yellow, gray or brown in color. This is one of the largest and finest melo pearls ever found.

Buccellati is a world renowned Italian jewelry house that is famous for its textural gold jewelry and spectacular silver pieces.  The firm utilizes different finishing techniques such as engraving, etching, and piercing to add dimension and beauty to the jewelry.  Typically they incorporate yellow and white gold along with platinum and silver in each piece.  When they feature gems, they are often large bold stones that are unusual and rare.  Many of the pieces are inspired by nature as can be seen in the pieces here, whether a cluster of grapes, or a whimsical monkey.  Buccellati jewelry is statement jewelry and is immediately recognizable due to their trademark finishing details and the mixing of different metals.
Trays of jewelry being matched up with their labels before the event.

A statement necklace of 19 South Sea baroque pearls set in 18k white and yellow gold alternating with elaborate links accented with rose cut diamonds - and the matching earrings.
I just couldn't resist these spectacular 18k white gold earrings featuring two drop-shaped South Sea pearls framed in an elaborate foliate design encrusted with 254 round brilliant cut diamonds totaling 10.47ct.  And not too heavy to wear, I might add!  Wish I could have worn them to the event - however they looked fabulous on display.  Definitely my favorite!
Look at the luster and orient on the pearls - incredible.  Not to mention the amazing artistry and expert goldsmithing.  Truly a masterpiece!

An 18k white gold grape leaf brooch of 23 baroque pearls forming a cluster of grapes with gold leaves is accented with 383 rose cut diamonds totaling 15.88ct.
The majority of the pearls featured in the Buccellati jewels that evening were cultured South Sea pearls, however there were a few rare exotic natural pearls like the melo pearl in the Gran Dama, as well as a conch pearl ring, and a natural abalone pearl brooch.  And there was a suite of freshwater pearl jewelry and a few Tahitian pearls to round out the exhibit. 

Note the elongated abalone pearl as the body of the swordfish brooch. The abalone pearl is a rare natural pearl found in the gastropod mollusk, Haliotis.  The mother-of-pearl lining the inside of the abalone shell has an intense luster and brilliant iridescent colors of blue, purple, green, pink and silver.  Abalone pearls are typically irregular in shape, most commonly the horn shape.

A large triangular-shaped conch pearl is accented with 71 fancy colored diamonds totaling 0.60ct and 42 round brilliant cut diamonds totaling 0.56ct set in an elaborate 18k gold ring. Conch pearls are a non-nacreous pearl produced by the Queen Conch, Strombus gigas, one of the largest mollusks native to the tropical northwestern Atlantic and Caribbean. Pink is considered the more valuable and preferred color, however, yellow, white and red colors can also be produced. Conch pearls exhibit a silky flame-like structure and are typically oval in shape.

Some of the most densely populated pearl oyster beds in the world lie off the coast of northern and western Australia.  This remote location with often rough seas is the source of some of the largest and finest cultured pearls in the world, known as South Sea pearls.  Pinctada maxima, the mollusk that produces these pearls is noted for its thick white shell and sometimes reaches more than 12" in diameter.

An astonishingly beautiful 18k yellow gold necklace of South Sea pearls accented with diamonds and emeralds.  Notice the detail and the finishing - quintessential Buccellati.

An 18k gold chimpanzee hanging from a tree branch highlights a large lustrous South Sea baroque pearl as the centerpiece of the brooch.

An adorable 18k white and yellow gold panda munching on bamboo. The brooch highlights 
a large South Sea baroque pearl as the body of the panda and is accented with 592 round brilliant cut diamonds totaling 9.40ct and two fancy colored diamonds for the eyes totaling 0.28ct

A magnificent 18k white gold necklace features nine large South Sea baroque pearls alternating with elaborate pierced oval links accented with 378 rose cut diamonds totaling 25.20ct. Drop dead gorgeous.

Not a pearl piece - but appropriate for the evening - a Sea Dragon with a phenomenal opal!
The attention to detail is breathtaking.

This spectacular necklace features seven large pear-shaped South Sea pearls draped from an 18k yellow and white gold frame accented with 249 round brilliant cut diamonds totaling 14.03ct. Stunning and sophisticated - fit for a queen.

A magnificent 18k yellow and white gold snake brooch, created to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Snake, features six large baroque peals, three Biwa pearls, and one drop-shaped pearl accented with 241 round brilliant cut diamonds totaling 4.07ct and 413 fancy colored diamonds totaling 4.04ct, as well as two round faceted rubies for the eyes.

The Grand Baroque necklace and earrings done in 18k yellow and white gold feature baroque pearls in a grapevine motif.  The pearls represent stylized grapes nestling among furled, overlapping vine leaves. The necklace has three South Sea baroque pearls and seven Biwa pearls accented with 2,215 rose cut diamonds weighing 22.46ct.  The earrings feature two Biwa pearls and 23 rose cut diamonds totaling 2.57ct.  Biwa pearls are unusually shaped cultured pearls from the freshwater mussel Hyriopsis schlegeli of Lake Biwa, Japan.

A close-up of the Grand Baroque necklace.  Notice the veining on the grape leaves and the setting of the diamonds - masterful!  Extraordinary, exquisite and elegant.

An 18k yellow and white gold butterfly brooch has two baroque Tahitian pearls forming the body of the butterfly and 2.72ct of round brilliant cut diamonds encrusting the wings.  The Tahitian pearls are produced by the Pinctada margaritifera-cumingi, a black lip oyster indigenous to Polynesia. The pierced work on the wings has a honeycomb motif giving it a delicate feeling of lightness - just remarkable.

One of the six cases displaying the grape leaf pearl brooch, a baroque pearl necklace
and a spider web brooch.

The Rotunda at the National Museum of Natural History bathed in blue, like the ocean,
where the event unfolded.

Addressing the guests (l to r):  Director of Natural History, Kirk Johnson with Alberto Milani, CEO of Buccellati, and Lucrezia Buccellati, granddaughter of Gianmaria Buccellati, the company's president.

In front of the Buccellati Cup, donated to the Smithsonian in 2000 - Christine Webb, consultant to the National Gem Collection, Cara Santelli, Tracy Warmington, and Jeffrey Post, the curator of the National Gem Collection.

To have all of these incredible Buccellati jewels at the Museum for the evening was truly spectacular.  Each piece was one-of-a-kind and designed and manufactured by talented artists and master goldsmiths.  The pearls were astonishing - the luster, orient, matching, and lack of blemishing - as well as the rarity and beauty of the natural pearls - beyond compare.  Many people never have the opportunity to see such exquisite creations.  A once in a lifetime evening that left many guests speechless - Magnifico!

It was an incredible night at the Museum!
  Buccellati and pearls.....what more could a girl ask for?

To view more exquisite Buccellati jewelry, please visit the website

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