Making high jewellery accessible

Making high jewellery accessible

Stepping into the newly restored Bulgari store on Rome's famed Via Condotti brings shoppers face to face with jewellery for all seasons, quite literally.

The sparsely elegant, oval entranceway has four back-lit display cases featuring necklace and earrings sets inspired by spring, summer, autumn and winter.

It is a gorgeous visual feast of emeralds, rubies, diamonds and more, carved into leaves that form bejewelled garlands.

Mr Jean-Christophe Babin, the Italian jeweller's new chief executive who was appointed last year, explains that high jewellery is front and centre for a reason.

"Jewellery is the DNA of Bulgari," says the Rome-based French-Italian, who was formerly the head of Swiss watch brand Tag Heuer, also under luxury goods conglomerate LVMH.

"You have to focus on what can make the brand more desirable," says the 55-year-old in rapid-fire, Frenchaccented English in an interview with Life! last month. "And high jewellery is a kind of crowning achievement in terms of the company's know-how and style."

The brand's signature style of vivid, cabochon-cut precious and semi- precious jewels was visibly defined in the glamorous 1960s and 1970s era of La Dolce Vita. Jewellery as a product category now accounts for 46 per cent of the label's revenue, followed by perfumes and skincare at 23 per cent and watches at 20.1 per cent. Accessories and hotels make up the rest.

Started by Greek silversmith Sotirio Bulgari in 1884, the company marked its 130th anniversary last month. It has come a long way since, but will not be resting on its laurels. Mr Babin explains that in order to stay relevant in this increasingly competitive retail space, the company will be putting its efforts into creating more affordable versions of its signature collections.

Last year, under Mr Babin's watch, the company introduced a steel and gold Serpenti watch which has become a bestseller. It is priced from $11,700, a cheaper option to the all-gold version, which starts at $39,600.

"It is a good idea to start from the top, epitomising the best of your knowledge," he says, "then to cascade it down across different price segments corresponding to different wearing habits and frequencies."

He adds: "We shouldn't forget that the bread and butter of jewellery is more accessible products you can wear daily."

With that in mind, the company plans to create a medium-high collection this year based on the Diva high jewellery collection introduced last year. It is inspired by the Italian Caracalla mosaics and modelled in campaigns by brand ambassador Carla Bruni, the former French First Lady.

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