Lucia Silvestri, the glamourous jet-setting Creative Director at Bulgari, once dreamt about working with the world’s most magnificent precious stones.
Today, surrounded by a compelling array sourced from all over the planet (think sapphires from Sri Lanka, emeralds from Colombia and spinels from Myanmar), she sits at a long table in the Italian brand’s headquarters along the Tiber River in Rome, devising colourful gem combos on one-of-a-kind rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces and brooches. “I am a gem hunter first,” proclaims Silvestri, who takes as many as seven 15-day-long trips a year to the ends of the earth, in hopes of uncovering the next most extraordinary stone. “I am fascinated not only with the idea of finding new things, but what nature can offer us. There’s always some form of discovery involved.”
Silvestri’s sensitiveness towards gemstones caught the attention of Paolo Bulgari from the very beginning. “When Mr Bulgari introduced me to the raw materials department, I immediately fell in love. I started to dream every night about the gems I saw,” recalled the industry veteran, who gave up studying biology for a job at the brand when she was 18. “Mr Bulgari recognised my passion. He was looking for a young person to follow him to buy semi-precious stones and he picked me.”
So how does Silvestri, who has stayed at Bulgari since, define a good gem? “Instinct,” she said. “There are stones that talk to me and then there are stones that do not tell me anything. Beauty aside, they need to have a personality. If one feels cold to me, I end up not choosing it.” Knowing your brand helps as well, the designer further explains. “One of the first things I learnt from Mr Bulgari was yes, you can have a feeling for a gem, but you have to think how you might use it. You must think, what can I do? So if I see beautiful rubies, but they are too heavy or too dark, I think, that is not a Bulgari gem. But when I see something that I feel is for Bulgari, I get very excited.”
Despite the first-class travels, the fancy parties and, of course, the beautiful gems that surround her every single day, Silvestri’s work is not always a bed of roses (we live vicariously through her Instagram Stories and so should you). “One time, somebody told us that two or three important rubies had surfaced in a Sri Lankan jungle and, after a strenuous five-hour trek without water, we discovered that those stones were not what we had hoped to find. The owner of the mine was very rude to me as well. Maybe it was because I am a woman.” she recalls. But there was a silver lining. “I found a baby leopard that lived at the villa where we stayed at and I spent the entire day with that incredible animal. We got no rubies, but I will always remember that trip.”