Mario Buccellati 1891–1965
Mario Buccellati began apprenticing with jewelry makers Betrami & Betrami in 1903 at the age of twelve. He showed prodigious skill in the craft and in 1919 bought the firm of his former employers, changing its name to Buccellati. Mario opened the first Buccellati store in Milan the following year, which was followed shortly after by stores in Rome and Florence.
Mario Buccellati obtained fame for both his flamboyant personality and his designs while exhibiting at Madrid’s 1920 Exposition. Asked by a woman if he would be willing to discount the price of an expensive compact, Mario reportedly shouted “I am not a tradesman!” then promptly tossed the compact out a window. Word spread like wildfire and the next day customers flocked to Mario’s booth, clearing out his inventory in a single day. As Mario’s fame grew, his designs caught the attention of the era’s great and wealthy, including Pope Pius XII and poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, who proclaimed Mario “The Prince of Goldsmiths”.
Mario continued to expand the Buccellati empire, opening stores in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida to cater to his growing American clientele. He encouraged his sons to pursue the family tradition of jewelry making and four of the five brothers entered the family business when they came of age. With Mario’s passing in 1965, management of the company was handed to these four brothers. In 1971, one of the brothers, Gianmaria Buccellati, broke from the family business and founded a separate jewelry design firm under the family name. Continuing his father’s tradition of global expansion, Gianmaria opened stores in Paris, London, Hong Kong and many other major cities around the world before merging back with Buccellati in 2011, forming Buccellati Holding Italia.
Works by Buccellati are most notable for their richly detailed textures. Employing tools and techniques that have remained largely unchanged since the Renaissance, Buccellati craftsman engrave intricate patterns and designs across nearly every metal surface of a piece. The finish on Buccellati jewelry often resemble fine linen or lace, though some feature minutely detailed scenes of flora and fauna. Buccellati designs often use mixed metals, such as gold and silver or gold and platinum, to increase the dimensionality and visual contrast of a piece. Gemstones, when employed, are generally used in a painterly way, adding a strong and striking display of color to any piece they adorn.
Works by Buccellati have been held and displayed by the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Chianciano Art Museum, Moscow Kremlin Museum, Museo del Gioiello and many other highly regarded museums and institutions around the globe.