Over the decades, women had shown great power, courage and grace in facing everyday challenges. And much like modern day multi-hyphenated women who undertake everything they do with charisma and conviction, the movement of female empowerment is becoming increasingly significant.

A woman has so much to do in her many vocations that the pieces of jewellery she wears need to reflect and complement her lifestyle. From aristocrats to movie stars, socialites to leading career women, jewellery are designed to suit all possible lifestyles with the same distinctiveness.

Vogue Italia. Settembre 2001. Sophia Loren wore necklace N465 and earrings E367 in yellow gold with diamonds both from Heritage Collection. Credit Michel Comte/Corbis

“A jewel can bring out the best in a woman. It is an expression of taste and personality especially when it is one piece that is so elegant and wearable like a second skin,” exclaims Lucia Boscaini, Brand and Heritage Curator of Bulgari.

Films and magazines have provided women with a template for great taste. Hollywood is looked at as a pedestal for an immersive narrative taken by masters of photography over the decades – capturing the infinite facets of feminine charisma through the sparkles of a jewel.

Boscaini continues: “The jewellery is a microcosm that encapsulates the social and fashion trends of an epoch but also the taste of the woman who wears it with her own persona and style.”

Lucia Boscaini marvels at the BVLGARI Serpenti collection (Photo by Venturelli/Getty Images for BVLGARI)

Empowering women’s fashion
A defining moment of 1950s fashion came from a hugely influential and ultra-feminine style based on a curvaceous silhouette introduced by Christian Dior in 1947. Monsieur Dior’s designs rejected the severely tailored, shoulder-padded, slim-skirted suits that were synonymous with the fashion of WWII. The new era in fashion, also known as the New Look, became an image of metamorphosis from wartime austerity to postwar femininity – a style that prevailed throughout the fifties as a popular style.

Fashion was inducted as a feminine ideal that bolstered the world’s postwar conservative values. The ultra-feminine emphasis that shaped 1950s fashion and its universal ideals of femininity constituted a blueprint for reconfiguring social and gender roles disrupted by the war.

This transformation summoned fashionable women in the 1950s to complete her ‘look’ with one mandatory requirement — jewellery. Rules of etiquette dictated that no woman’s ensemble was complete without a coordinating set of earrings and a brooch, and possibly rings, a necklace, and bracelets.

The first stylised versions of the Serpenti became the perfect functional accessories for postwar sober elegance. ca. 1955. Bulgari Heritage Collection.
The first stylised versions of the Serpenti became the perfect functional accessories for postwar sober elegance. ca. 1955. Bulgari Heritage Collection.

It was during this time that Bulgari had introduced the Serpenti to the world as an emblem of freedom and liberation for women. It was created to embody the idea of ‘playing with fire’ but with courage and elegance. Women were no longer afraid of wearing something big.

“The Serpenti sign is very strong and charismatic; it appeals to women who do not care of the ‘danger’ associated to the snake. It wraps around the wrist to express a strong sense of belonging. If the first stylised versions of bracelet-watch launched in the 1940s were the perfect functional accessories for postwar sober elegance, the subsequent animalier versions perfectly resonated with female trends of the 1960s. Women began to show more self-confidence and deeply rethinking their role in society and challenging conventions of sorts,” explains Boscaini.

In 1963, the world was entertained by ‘Cleopatra’ played by the legendary Elizabeth Taylor — a film laced in a lavish and mysterious slice of jewellery history. She was reported to have 65 costume changes and a huge collection of jewellery, including a serpent armband reminiscent of the Bulgari motif.

Elizabeth Taylor was photographed on set in 1962 with a Serpenti piece. (Courtesy of Bvlgari)

Taylor was photographed on the set of Cleopatra in 1962 flaunting the Bulgari’s snake bracelet and brought ‘a very nice item in a Roman jewellery store’ to an instantly recognisable jewel adored by the entire world.

She proceeded to become a fashion icon closely associated with Bulgari’s snake bracelet and everything else that sparkled in Bulgari’s brilliance. In fact, Taylor’s love affairs were embellished with Bulgari jewels. Many of her jewels from those years were steeped in folklore, and until today, the Bulgari Heritage team is still trying to get their hands on all 20 over pieces as well as gathering information about their history.

Serpenti bracelet-watch in gold and platinum with rubies and diamonds, 1954. Bulgari Heritage Collection. (Courtesy of Bvlgari)

“The Serpenti, among others, has been successfully transferred to the accessories collections that are today as iconic as other jewellery creations. From time to time, we elaborate the colour and size of the scales or the shape of the head. Sometimes we highlight the hypnotising eyes of the exotic reptile,” she explains of the contemporary updates on new jewellery pieces that are inspired by archival references including Taylor’s collection of necklaces in emerald, diamonds and sapphires that has a decidedly Egyptian leitmotif.

Femininity in modern women
Jewellery reflects the quintessence of femininity and fantasy. It is not just diamonds that women are waking up to, but the idea of wearing jewellery – a new desire to ‘dressing up’ and an escape from minimalism. Over the years, jewellery has become the last refuge of fantasy and one of the few ways to express individuality and femininity.

Women today see jewellery as a distinction of power, equality and status alongside the evolution in fashion. Whether it’s a prêt-à-porter jewel or a module in gold, jewellery remains the perfect ally of a woman.

Naomi Campbell decks a 1970 sautoir in gold with emeralds, rubies and diamonds. The central hexagonal emerald weights 300.81 ct.. Bulgari Heritage Collection. (Courtesy of Bvlgari)

“We identify with the fashion industry’s ever-changing direction by keeping a distinctive style in a constant evolution over the years. If you look at all the high jewellery collection launched in the latest years, they are incredibly consistent with the hallmarks of the Bulgari style in line with fashion trends,” shares Rome native, Boscaini.

For over a century, Bulgari has celebrated women in far greater ways imagined by men. The Roman brand celebrates this empowering evolution of the Bulgari style in an exciting retrospective exhibition, ‘Tribute to Femininity” which will take place in Moscow Kremlin Museum. The visionary creativity, taste for beauty and exquisite craftsmanship of the Roman jeweller will be told through more than 500 pieces on display, spanning from late 19th century until the 1990s.

The exhibition traces the close relationship between Bulgari’s creative output and the demands and evolving taste of women, changing in parallel with female emancipation. Alongside the cultural and social changes in women’s history, the creations on display celebrate the charisma of women who made their own rules and chose Bvlgari jewels as an embodiment of their personality for both formal and informal occasions.

Tribute to Femininity opens 7th September 2018 until 13th January 2019.