Jewelry In Focus LoveGold

A Rare Bulgari Serpenti Belt at Christie’s

Serpenti Cover

As Bulgari‘s most recognizable symbols, the Serpenti remains a highly coveted jewel for today’s jewelry collectors. While a fair number of its original watch-bracelets have recently come up for auction or appeared on the market, the emergence of a Serpenti necklace-belt version is a veritable rarity in the world of vintage jewelry.

Original design sketch for the Serpenti bracelet watch, c. 1960

Original design sketch for the Serpenti bracelet watch, c. 1960

Developed on the heels of Bulgari’s innovative tubogas design that was used in the early snake watch-bracelets in the late 1940s, the more realistic varieties were produced in the 1960s. The intricate construction of the watch required every scale and coil to be made and assembled by hand. According to Amanda Triossi, author of Bulgari: 125 Years of Italian Magnificence, “the elements [were] handmade out of sheet gold and attached to each other by soldered gold pivots or, in the case of the enameled versions, screwed together.”

Bulgari1311969206

The first iterations of the Serpenti were made solely in yellow gold, their heads and tails coated with diamonds. Of these early examples, Elizabeth Taylor’s watch-bracelet, which she was famously captured wearing on the set of Cleopatra in 1962, is the most extraordinary.

Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Cleopatra in 1962 wearing her her Serpenti watch. © BULGARI

Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Cleopatra in 1962 wearing her her Serpenti watch. © BULGARI

The Serpenti’s popularity led Bulgari to produce a number of these watch-bracelets, eventually enlarging the scales to accommodate polygonal diamond accents or waves of colorful enamel combinations. Known for their vibrant use of color, Bulgari employed the same characteristic in its numerous enamel color combinations of the Serpenti creations. However, it is important to note that fewer than 100 of these Serpenti jewels were produced, rendering each one incredibly rare.

Moreover, there were even fewer necklace-belts created, with only a handful of known examples made in the 1960s. The most celebrated and widely known is the one once owned by the venerable fashion editor Diana Vreeland. Most likely a special commission, her Serpenti necklace-belt featured pink and white enamel scales and sapphire eyes.

Diana Vreeland wearing her unusual Bulgari Serpenti necklace (left); Originally owned by fashion legend Diana Vreeland, Bulgari replicated this belt so it could have a permanent place in their Historical Archive Collection. This belt is made of pink and white enamel with sapphire eyes. (right)

Diana Vreeland wearing her unusual Bulgari Serpenti necklace (left); Originally owned by fashion legend Diana Vreeland, Bulgari replicated this belt so it could have a permanent place in their Historical Archive Collection. This belt is made of pink and white enamel with sapphire eyes. (right)

Another known version, which first appeared in the pages of Vogue in August 1968, was made with black and white enamel with diamond eyes.

Photo: Gian Paolo Barbieri/Vogue; © Condé Nast

An enamel Serpenti watch-bracelet and necklace-belt in Vogue’s September 1968 feature “From Italy: The Absolute Jewels” Photo: Gian Paolo Barbieri/Vogue; © Condé Nast

A third example of blue and white enamel and diamond eyes, circa 1965, is currently part of the jewelry collection at FD Gallery.

 An Enamel, Diamond and Gold Serpenti Necklace/Belt, by Buglari, circa 1965 (FD Gallery)

An Enamel, Diamond and Gold Serpenti Necklace/Belt, by Buglari, circa 1965 (FD Gallery)

In 2010, a limited-edition series of the Serpenti necklace-belt were created for the Bulgari Heritage collection, and those examples include a yellow gold and diamond and a black enamel and diamond variations. A version of Diana Vreeland’s necklace was also replicated for the collection.

From L-R: A yellow gold Serpenti belt made in 2010 for the Bulgari Heritage collection; an emerald, diamond, enamel and gold Serpenti watch-bracelet, circa 1970; and a black and white enamel, diamond and gold Serpenti watch-bracelet, circa 1965. Photo: Doug Rosa

From L-R: A yellow gold Serpenti belt made in 2010 for the Bulgari Heritage collection; an emerald, diamond, enamel and gold Serpenti watch-bracelet, circa 1970; and a black and white enamel, diamond and gold Serpenti watch-bracelet, circa 1965. Photo: Doug Rosa

In the Magnificent Jewels sale at Christie’s Geneva, a fourth Serpenti necklace-belt from the 1960s will hit the auction block this month. With a color combination more realistic to nature than its more flamboyant counterparts, this rare gold serpent features golden brown and dark brown enamel scales and pear-shaped diamond eyes. The necklace-belt is estimated to fetch $200,000 to $270,000, though I am sure the winning bid will exceed the high estimate by a mile.

An Amazing Enamel and Diamond 'Serpent' Belt, by Bulgari

AN AMAZING ENAMEL AND DIAMOND ‘SERPENT’ BELT, BY BULGARI Designed as an articulated gold snake applied with golden brown and dark brown enamel scales, with pear-shaped diamonds eyes, mounted in gold, 1960s, 85.0 cm, with brown leather fitted Bulgari case Signed Bulgari, no. 69.2 (Christie’s)

Seen worn as a belt, this Serpenti piece is a true rarity among collectable jewels.

Seen worn as a belt, this Serpenti piece is a true rarity among collectable jewels.

This post is brought to you in collaboration with LoveGold.

LoveGold Logo

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply