Creative director of Bulgari, Lucia Silvestri on Serpenti symbolism and its inexhaustible interpretations

We deep dive into her inspirations, and find out what we can expect from the brand's iconic snake symbol.

Harper's Bazaar India

For Lucia Silvestri, 2023 marks her tenth year anniversary as Bulgari’s Jewellery Creative Director, although she has been with the house for four decades now. Her remarkable passion for gemstones got her an in-road into the Italian luxury fashion house as a part-time resource at 18. She went on to become a full-time employee at the age of 22. Combining her passion for high-end jewellery, her tryst at Bulgari can be best described as an eternal love affair. 

In an exclusive chat with Harper's Bazaar India, the grand dame of ethereal jewellery design, the inimitable Lucia Silvestri talks design, inspiration, what the future holds, and Serpenti symbolism.

Harper’s Bazaar: What inspires you each day to work for Bulgari? 

Lucia Silvestri: Rome has always been one of my main muses together with gems; its light, its colours and magnificence always inspires, and amaze me at work—its beauty lies in every choice I make, and every corner hides immense creative input that I use. I absorb all the breathtaking colours, lights, architectural forms, and landscapes that enchant me—and turn these into jewellery.

HB: Bulgari's Serpenti symbolises various things across cultures, as a Jewellery Creative Director, what has been your approach in incorporating this within the brand’s work? 

LS: The snake has a broad symbolism and various interpretations. For Bulgari, the bond with this icon is associated with a deep, ancient meaning of transformative and regenerative powers because of its ability to shed its skin. But also, Serpenti is a symbol of strength and determination, combined with innate charm and elegance for us.

HB: You have described the Serpenti as, “It is this perfect balance between its heritage and creativity that has made the icon truly timeless and always in step with the times.” What has been your approach as far as innovation, technology, and design are concerned?

LS: It is very important for me to make the Serpenti symbol more recognisable as Bulgari’s sign, creating an indissoluble and strong bond. To do so, we are currently working on overcoming challenges while creating its high jewellery collection. We always work hard in order to renew ourselves with new proposals in terms of design, creativity, innovation, and exquisite craftsmanship. We also keenly work on developing new proposals that can embrace Gen Z’s interest in terms of aesthetics and design. Pieces that are increasingly easy to wear, minimal and stackable in different combinations and styles. 

HB: Serpenti also symbolises metamorphosis, how would you describe the creative evolution of the brand in the last few years? 

LS: Writing the infinite tales of Bulgari Serpenti by design, through its metamorphosis and at the same time staying true to its essence is our goal. During the past 75 years we have always gone further, towards an audacious, pioneering vision that can keep up with the times, both in terms of craftmanship and design. We embrace modern needs, but always keep its iconic DNA intact. 

HB: You’ve travelled extensively to places as diverse as Geneva, Antwerp, Colombo, and Jaipur. What has been your biggest takeaway from these destinations? 

LS: Each travel is an experience that enriches me. The places I have visited are very different from each other, and from each of them I try to absorb the beauty that can be found in hidden corners—it can be a breathtaking landscape, the warmth of the people, the energy of a special place, or the charm of a certain culture. I get carried away and draw inspiration from anything that touches my heart.

HB: As Serpenti celebrates its 75th year, what does the future look like? 

LS: In 75 years, Serpenti has written infinite tales. Our Serpenti's vision for the future is to continue to elevate and carry on the legacy of this icon as we evolve into a new future, pioneering via audacious changes and overcoming new challenges. 

HB: The Serpenti is also often intertwined with themes of femininity and empowerment, how is this important in a world that’s inching towards being more and more gender-fluid? 

LS: In the last 75 years, the Bulgari Serpenti has been the faithful ally of women, evolving side-by-side with charismatic women who own their magnetic charm. As the jeweller for these extraordinary women, Bulgari has always drawn inspiration from the charisma of its muses, crafting empowering pieces that celebrate an expressive personality and audacious mindset.

At the same time, it is very important for us to keep up with the times and current needs: the powerful attitude of the snake helps it break out of the box and categories, expanding and embracing every sphere in turn. We have dared and experimented with styling the snake icon even in the men's category, which has resulted in giving it a pioneering aesthetic.

HB: Bulgari has been a canvas for creative experimentation—whether it's technique, craftsmanship, or design. The encounter of the snake and art gave birth to extraordinary synergies, such as the Serpenti by Refik Anadol exhibition, which continued its journey at the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum in Madrid, in February, this year. How would you describe its relation with art? 

LS: I think such a strong and fascinating symbol really lends itself to inexhaustible interpretations and it is a source of inspiration in many ways. It's wonderful to see how this icon can expand into different fields giving birth to extraordinary synergies. The collaboration with the media artist and director Refik Anadol on Serpenti sets a perfect example in this sense. We've seen Serpenti in jewellery, finally evolving and changing shape and design. Now seeing it interpreted by contemporary artists—as we inaugurate the Serpenti factories this year to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the iconic sign—makes you realise how many infinite possibilities for experimentation this icon still offers!

HB: What would you say has been the most challenging yet rewarding part of being a Jewellery Creative Director? 

LS: After more than 40 years in the company, the greatest achievement for me has been, and still is, being able to transmit Bulgari’s DNA into every creation I make, even though I am always innovating while making it contemporary. And this is still a beautiful challenge which makes me want to stay and keep doing what I love with the same passion, for over 40 years now!