The creative progeny of famous Italian families shares names with brands that are considered the apotheosis of 20th-century luxury. And yet, for various reasons, including intellectual property constraints or a desire for independence, many of these jewellers eschew trading on their family name.
Delfina Delettrez, daughter of Silvia Venturini Fendi and jeweller Bernard Delettrez, took on a high-profile role at Fendi creating a high jewellery collection unveiled in Paris during Haute Couture in July 2023. However, this came almost 16 years after launching her namesake label. According to British Vogue, when Kim Jones asked her to join Fendi alongside him and her mother in 2020, Delettrez said: “I was moved, I was flattered. It was a call from an outsider like me. Someone who knew me for my work.” You see, when she launched in 2007, the name Fendi was absent from her fashion and fine jewellery marque, though it wasn’t long before she became known in her own right for Surrealist pieces and as the pioneering force behind women donning a single earring.
Marina Bulgari, the granddaughter of Maison founder Sotirios Bulgari, worked in the family business and then established Marina B in 1978, long before LVMH acquired the Bulgari brand. Today, vintage fine jewellery by Marina B from the 1980s and 1990s is very sought after. Last November, a Marina B gold and diamond parure ‘Onda’ sold at Sotheby’s for 48,260 CHF. At the latest edition of the bi-annual GemGenève, specialist exhibitors, including Geneva-based Ultraco SA, which introduced Marina B to the Indian market, showcased vintage Marina B. “We have just sold a necklace designed by Marina B,” notes Ida Faerber of Faerber Collection, one of GemGenève’s four founders. “It’s very recognisable – she had her very own signature such as the Pneu available in all sorts of colours. Mainly earrings, but also a few necklaces.”
Coccia Collection and Palma Collection by Giorgio B
In May 2023, her nephew, Giorgio Bulgari, unveiled his Giorgio B collection in London at Dover Street Market during Photo London. It included voluminous Goccia bombe rings, available in red, black, or offwhite enamel studded with rose gold, onyx or deep red Mediterranean coral cabochons. “The Goccia and the Palma ring are both extremely simple. But the proportions are, to my eye, perfect. The simplest things are the hardest because you have nothing really to hide behind. But this is my style, which is very graphic,” he says, adding that like his forebears, he intends to create “designs that are here to stay”. Giorgio B is also available at The Louisa Guinness Gallery in London and at deBoulle in Dallas, Texas, and can also be found at the brand’s trunk show in Gstaad from 11 to 25 February 2024.
After a career in finance, Bulgari moved to Geneva working at first with his father Gianni, best known for jewellery and watches produced under the name GB Enigma and for being a powerhouse of innovation. “The first product that I focused on was watches. I worked with the product manager. I went to visit all the different suppliers in Switzerland, the hand makers, the case makers, and the dial makers. Everything,” he explains. Next, he was chosen by the owners of Marina B to become the brand’s creative director – a role he vacated in 2017. After this, he undertook private commissions creating one-of-a-kind jewels for private clients, something he offers alongside his collections. “It was seeing my father constantly working, designing jewellery, watches, objects, even bicycles or dashboards of automobiles. Everything was focused on the idea of designing things and ergonomics,” he explains. The first half of the 20th century, particularly the Streamline period together with his surroundings, education and parents, are all cited by him as formative influences. “Certainly, it touched me. I was exposed to a world that made me sensitive to it. I developed my taste and sense of an aesthetic that led me to create my own pieces.”
Creativity and a love of design are probably inevitable in families such as these. Take Maria Sole Ferragamo, founder of Milan-based So-Le Studio whose flagship store now graces Milan’s Via Sant’Andrea 10 in 2022 and whose exclusive collection ‘Trame’, which means to weave in Italian, was taken to Design Miami in December 2023 by the Elisabetta Cipriani Gallery. The designer is best known for shimmering statement jewellery crafted from metallicised leather, while ‘Trucioli’ (meaning thin strips), which launched in April 2021 using shavings taken from bag fastenings and clasps, allowed the designer to give new life not just to leather but other leftovers from the manufacturing process.
FW23 Collection by So-Le Studio
Ferragamo says that by the age of nine, she’d already discovered her passion for jewellery. From a box of oddments containing components, she created pieces that she gifted to aunts and cousins. “Super simple jewellery featuring weaves, glass beads and angels,” she explains. Later, as a young teenager, she spent long summer holidays working behind the scenes in her family’s factories, everywhere from the packaging department to the atelier. Inspired, she took leather from sample books and used a compass to cut flower shapes. However, she credits the MA in Jewellery at London’s Central Saint Martins for helping her to hone her bold and sparkling illusionary aesthetic. “It was the best experience ever, a gift that became the foundation of my ideas. I still consult my sketchbook from that time,” she says, adding that she cherished spending two years being pushed to take risks and explore.
Her newest creation – the beetle brooch – has brought her right back into the bosom of her family. Not only is she replicating a technique used to create the red and gold uppers of a pair of (her grandfather’s) Salvatore Ferragamo’s shoes, but she is also reviving a neglected category. “Brooches are easy and super versatile and can be worn in different ways and there isn’t ever a problem with fit,” she explains.
After all, when your great-grandfather, grandfather or grandmother was the founding Bulgari Ferragamo or Fendi, it’s immutable, simply part of the family DNA.