FORTUNA® has always enjoyed the fortune of offering extraordinary jewelry pieces from the historic makers. For our August Jewels & Watches auction, we are excited to present multiple iconic pieces by Bulgari, the renowned luxury Italian jeweler. To commemorate the long history and successes of the brand, we decided to dive deep into its past and highlight some of their more celebrated designs.
Bulgari was founded in Rome in 1884 by the talented Greek silversmith Sotirios Georgis Boulgaris; his name was later Italianised to Sotirio Bulgari. In its early years, Bulgari was known for silver pieces that borrowed elements from Byzantine and Islamic art, combining them with floral motifs. Having latched onto jewelry style trends emanating from Paris, Bulgari continued to follow the lead of what was then the world’s jewelry capital throughout the first half of the century.
When Sotirio passed away in 1932, his two sons, Giorgio and Costantino—who each had a keen interest in precious stones and jewels—took over the business. The brothers undertook an extravagant remodeling of both the interior and the exterior of the Via Condotti store and formally changed the company logo to “BVLGARI,” an application of the traditional Roman alphabet.
As the 1940s came to a close, Bulgari introduced the Serpenti bracelet-watches, which were constructed using a technique called Tubogas. Tubogas literally translates to “gas pipe,” and is the descriptive name given to a type of chain formed from a pair of interlocking long gold strips wrapped tightly together. The core is then removed, making the now hollow piece remarkably flexible and lightweight. The edges interlock, requiring no soldering. While Bulgari’s first example was made in 1948, it took another 15 years before its goldsmiths fully mastered the technique, and made it one of the brand’s iconic designs. Even without the recognizable Tubogas look, the Italian jeweler has often incorporated flexible bands in many of their works, such as these vintage Bulgari accessories.
Enamored by ancient legends of the snake, a symbol of rebirth and vitality, Bulgari has reimagined its famous serpent in countless designs. Pictured below, LVCEA’s gleaming band also takes inspiration from Serpenti, with each interlocking element mimicking a reptilian scale. The LVCEA diamond encrusted ladies watch in 18K white gold achieved $11,250 in our August Jewels & Watches auction.
Bulgari, always ahead of the curve, also began creating matching sets of jewelry and selling them as separate pieces. The Italian jeweler recognized the modern woman’s desire to decide whether she wanted to mix and match, giving her countless combinations to create different looks. These vintage Bulgari pieces from FORTUNA®’s August Jewels & Watches sale are sold separately but would be tremendously chic when worn together. By selling the accessories separately, Bulgari gave women the opportunity to accumulate the matching designs over time and added to the excitement of the jewelry shopping experience.
Bulgari is probably most well-known for coining the concept of modular design, using bold and recognizable designs with clean shapes. These designs are devoid of excessive ornamentation and are instead composed of interlocking elements that can adapt easily to different sizes by simply removing or adding components. The most famous example of modular designs can be found in the Parentesi collection.
The Bulgari Parentesi was introduced in the 1980s, and were an instant hit amongst modern women who sought jewels that were appropriate for both daytime and evening occasions. The modular Parentesi designs were widely inspired by the ancient city of Rome, where Bulgari is headquartered. The details found in Roman pavements and the travertine junctions used to link the stone blocks all incorporate the parenthesis-like shape from which the collection gets its name.
Bulgari has derived inspiration from the Eternal City in more than one fashion. The cupolas of the Roman landscape were able to grace their way onto women’s fingers in the form of bold colored gemstones with a smooth, domed cut—known as “cabochon.” Perhaps the most famous use of the cabochon by Bulgari is the Trombino ring—famously worn by Elizabeth Taylor.
Like any innovative jeweler, the brand is constantly updating its designs and seeking out new inspirations. Bulgari has since come out with more rings that resemble the imposing design of the Trombino. The Bulgari Pink Tourmaline and Diamond Ring, pictured above, is set with a large cabochon pink tourmaline, standing proudly above round brilliant cut diamonds. The use of stones for their impact, rather than the intrinsic value of the gem, was a huge departure from the classical Parisian design that dominated the time and distinguished Bulgari as an inimitable creator in the jewelry industry.
Bulgari has never been afraid to make bold statements with their designs and they have faithfully brought back past designs in fresh ways. The brand has not only maintained relevance but continues to lead the jewelry industry, no less than 130 years since its inception.
Rubies have been appreciated by royalty in both Eastern and Western culture. Discover the alluring qualities of this rare gemstone and some of Fortuna’s favorite ruby jewels offered in past auctions.
Fortuna is excited to delve deeper into the history and lore of July’s birthstone, the magnificent ruby. Because of the deep blood-like color, the precious gemstone has been thought to hold the power of life in ancient cultures. The stone was believed to protect the lands of kings and noblemen in ancient India, and has long been perceived as a symbol of royalty in medieval Europe. In fact, the literal translation of “ruby” in Sanskrit is the “king of gemstones.” The deep red tint of the ruby has naturally also come to symbolize love and passion and has become the gemstone of choice in romantic gifts.
Rubies in Popular Culture
Rubies have such a long and rich history of being appreciated in both the East and West, it is no wonder that their influence stretches into cinema and popular culture. One of our favorite examples would be the iconic ruby red slippers worn by Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz.” While the original ruby slipper were actually made of felt, glue, and stones more suitable to crafting, for the 50th anniversary of the film, Harry Winston jewelers created a real-life pair of the iconic slippers—using 50 carats of diamonds and nearly 1,400 carats of rubies. And thus, the famed American jewelry house created the most expensive pair of shoes in the world. The slippers, which were meticulously set with 4,600 beautiful ruby stones, is valued at $3 million. Rubies have also made their way into your favorite rom-coms. In the 1990 film “Pretty Woman,” Richard Gere gifts Julia Roberts with an accessory as red as her hair. The wealthy tycoon presents her with a custom ruby necklace set with 23 pear-cut rubies. And unlike most movie props, the necklace was actually real—custom made by French jeweler, Fred Joaillier. It consisted of 23 pear-shaped rubies accented by diamonds in the form of a heart. This scene was made all the more iconic by Gere’s snapping the box shut on Ms. Roberts’s fingers as she goes to put on the lavish accessory. You can relive the comedic moment below.
Our Favorite Ruby Jewels Seen At Auction
Fortuna has had the pleasure of offering some of the most stunning ruby jewels at auction. Our specialists have come across fine rubies that have adorned jewelry by the renowned makers of our time to jewels dating back to the Victorian and Art Deco style eras. It was a true delight to recollect some of the finest ruby jewels our specialists have set their eyes on.
ROCK CRYSTAL CONVERTIVLE CUFF BROOCH, ATTRIBUTED TO SUZANNE BELPERRON
When auctioning the estate of legendary New York heiress and socialite, Bo Legendre, our jewelry team faced the daunting task of pricing her vast collection of jewelry. Our top jewelry specialists knew a select group of pieces had to be the work of the master jeweler of the early 20th century, Suzanne Belperron. Belperron believed her style to be her signature, and while she was right, it made it extremely difficult to authenticate her works. Through vigorous research, our specialists were able to identify and acquire certificates of authenticity for five of the pieces in her collection and attestations from famed Belperron expert, Mr. Olivier Baroin for the rest. Like many of Belperron’s creations, this rock crystal convertible cuff and flower brooch was truly ahead of its time and unlike any of the popular Art Deco jewels of the age. The brooch is set in platinum, displaying beautiful cabochon rubies weighing a total of approximately 5.90 carats, and round brilliant-cut diamonds weighing a total of approximately 0.20 carat, with I-J color and VS clarity. The unique design can be worn as a brooch fastened by double pin-stems or attached to an 18K white gold cuff. This wondrous piece was offered for $10,000; but with Belperron’s name attributed to the design, the lot ended up achieving $78,125 at auction.
A 2.34-CARAT UNHEATED BURMESE RUBY AND DIAMOND RING
Featuring a very lively, unheated Burmese cushion-cut ruby, this 2.34-Carat Ruby and Diamond Ring achieved more than double its starting bid at Fortuna’s 2017 Summer Fine Jewels sale. The ring comes in a platinum setting and is accented by round brilliant-cut diamonds, and is reminiscent of Jessica Simpson’s 2010 ruby and diamond engagement ring. Our in-house expert gemologists determined the ruby’s color to be “Pigeon’s Blood”—a rare characteristic among rubies that greatly enhances their value. The color is described as having a bright red hue with a small tint of purple that appears deep red when seen in light. This extraordinary color contributed in earning the ring $48,000 at auction.
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS “COUSCOUS” RUBY AND DIAMOND BRACELET
The french jewelery maison, Van Cleef & Arpels, has long been acclaimed for its elegant designs and use of quality gemstones. In fact, in 2019 the jewelry house released their “Treasures of Rubies Collection,” which featured 3,000 carats worth of rubies set into 60 unique pieces. This Van Cleef & Arpels “Couscous” Ruby and Diamond Bracelet is no exception to the brand’s dedication in creating only the finest ruby jewelry. Their jewelers choose only the cleanest of stones—a truly difficult task due to the presence of chromium in rubies. While chromium gives rubies their beautiful hue, it also makes them prone to cracks. As a result, very few rubies are able to grow intact into larger sizes and form perfect gemstones. Van Cleef & Arpels selects only the finest natural rubies possible, all of which are unheated and well-cut stones. Crafted in 18K gold, the bombe bracelet of polished gold boules is accented by 156 circular-cut rubies, weighing a total of approximately 8.00 carats—each ruby graced with a remarkable red. The rubies are flanked by three rows of round brilliant cut diamonds, creating a beautiful contrast. This eye-catching accessory had a starting bid of $15,000 at Fortuna’s February Fine Jewels sale in 2018 and ended up achieving $31,250 at auction.
CARTIER FINE BURMESE UNHEATED RUBY AND DIAMOND RING
Some of the most famous rubies in the world were set into designs by the French jewelry maison, Cartier. In 1957, Elizabeth Taylor was filmed being gifted a suite of ruby Cartier jewels by her husband famed film producer, Mike Todd. The images of her glamorous lifestyle made waves everywhere as she had already been wearing a diamond tiara while swimming in the couple’s pool. Taylor wore the ruby jewelry many times throughout her life, to red carpet events and when meeting royalty. This Cartier Fine Burmese Unheated Ruby and Diamond ring holds the same glamour and show which would make it worthy of Elizabeth Taylor. Crafted in 18K gold and featuring a 1.63-carats cushion-shaped Burmese unheated ruby, this spectacular cocktail ring is covered with round brilliant-cut diamonds of E-F color and VS clarity. This magnificent domed accessory achieved $27,500—more than triple its starting bid—from an excited phone bidder at our 2019 Magnificent Jewels sale.
ART DECO 6.36-CARAT UNHEATED BURMESE RUBY AND DIAMOND PLATINUM BROOCH
This antique 6.36-Carat Unheated Burmese Ruby and Diamond Platinum Brooch is quintessential Art Deco design and an excellent example of spectacular ruby gemstones. Crafted in platinum, as many Art Deco pieces often were, this unique brooch features an unheated Burmese ruby cabochon weighing an impressive 6.36 carats. It is difficult to find a large ruby of such a natural pure red hue. This deep red is augmented all the more by accenting it with 60 old European-cut diamonds of F-G color and VS clarity. This contrast in colors and the geometric design is highly characteristic of the Art Deco period. Unsurprisingly, this fine piece of jewelry history achieved $25,000 at auction.
BULGARI BURMESE RUBY AND DIAMOND “TROMBINO” RING
One of the largest rubies in the world is known as the Rajaratna Ruby. The ruby is a whopping 2,475 carats and currently resides in Bangalore, India. This impressive ruby first belonged to the Kings of Vijayanagar, a major South Indian empire between 1300 to 1600 AD, and dedicated this stone to the worship of the god Shiva. This impressive ruby, is cut as a cabochon, as were many of the King’s smaller rubies.
The tradition of cutting larger rubies as a cabochon remains today. This Bulgari cabochon unheated Burmese ruby weighs approximately 10.00 carats and is enhanced by stunning round brilliant and baguette-cut diamonds. The Trombino (translated as “little trumpet”) is one of Bulgari’s most time enduring designs. The Italian jewelry brand first introduced the design in the 1930s where it gained instant popularity. The design brought attention to the gemstone at the center and evoked a sense of royalty. It was instantly popular because it allowed the gemstone to stand proud. This Bulgari Burmese Ruby and Diamond “Trombino” Ring evokes that same regal quality as Bulgari’s first designs. This ring is made all the more worthy of nobility with the setting of one of the “king of gems.”
CARTIER RUBY AND DIAMOND RING
One would like to think that Cartier only selected rubies as deep a red as the red leather boxes they are gifted in; and that certainly seems to be the case for this Cartier Ruby and Diamond Ring. This beautiful three-row ring is triple the fun, with each row sitting whimsically atop one another, each featuring a fine oval-shaped ruby cabochon, set diagonally from each other. The rubies are surrounded by pavé-set round-cut diamonds, which further enhances the color of the rubies with its beautiful contrast. This unique piece of jewelry design achieved $22,500 at our September 2017 Fine Jewels sale.
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Okay so technically these are two lots, but we couldn’t resist! Bulgari is probably most well-known for coining the concept of modular design, using bold and recognizable designs with clean shapes. These designs are devoid of excessive ornamentation and are instead composed of interlocking elements.
Lot 9 & 10: Bulgari Fireworks Diamond Necklace and Bracelet
The Bulgari “Astrale” Fireworks line combines elements that make it quintessentially Bulgari. The necklace and bracelet adapts Bulgari’s modular design concept to a more glamorous night time look, using inspirations from their past “Boules” (or beads) line with the use of white gold beads. In the 1980’s Bulgari was also one of the first to create matching sets of jewelry, like this necklace and bracelet but selling them separately, understanding the modern woman’s desire to choose whether she wanted to mix or match. The matching necklace and bracelet are sold separately but they sure do look lovely together!
Art Deco Diamond & Emerald Bracelet
Why we love it:
The opulence and fine craftsmanship seen in Art Deco jewelry is what makes them absolute favorites at FORTUNA®. The sleek, geometric design seen in this piece is quite popular in many Art Deco jewels. Fashionable women of the 1920s and 1930s often preferred lower hemlines and slimmer silhouettes in their clothing, and the jewelry evolved to complement those designs. Art Deco will always be a subject of fascination amongst collectors and jewelry lovers; the era was the high point of french jewelry design and is incredibly unique in the emotion and beauty it evokes.
Lot 1001: Art Deco Diamond and Emerald Bracelet, French
The use of diamonds and emeralds in this piece is actually quite notable as well; diamonds had been in decline during the period of Art Nouveau, but the prosperity that followed WW1 and the rise of the Art Deco style saw a revival of the heavy use of diamonds and precious gemstones in jewelry. This glittering bracelet, featuring bright green emeralds against sleek white diamonds and a white gold setting is classic Art Deco in both its use of materials and design.
Chaumet Ruby and Diamond Bracelet
Why we love it:
Parisian jewelry house, Chaumet was founded in 1780 by Marie-Étienne Nitot, who worked as an apprentice to the official jeweler of Queen Marie Antoinette. Nitot himself went on to design jewels for Emperor Napoleon and Empress Josephine, continuing the honor of designing for royalty. This led to the creation of Chaumet’s signature Josephine collection and a tradition of glamour and regality in all of the pieces from the design house. Today the brand has been worn by celebrities like Natalie Portman and Chinese superstar and actress, Angelababy.
This Chaumet bracelet appears at first glance, to be effortlessly beautiful, its delicate curvature and occasional touches of bright color by use of the rubies are truly something to marvel at. Not to mention, the setting of emerald-,pear-, and round brilliant cut diamonds is truly intricate work only possible with a master jeweler. Chaumet’s reputation for excellence and majesty is exemplified in this beautiful accessory.
8.88-Carat Cushion-Shaped Diamond Ring
Why we love it:
This 8.88-carat cushion modified brilliant-cut diamond, boasts H/VS2 clarity and is flanked by round brilliant-cut diamonds of approximately 1.00 carat total, most G-H/VS clarity. Modified brilliant-cut diamonds are cut to have the same number and pattern of facets as round brilliants. This makes modified brilliant cuts an extremely popular choice of diamond, as they emit the superior brilliance of a round diamond with a more unique shape.
When purchasing diamond rings, particularly for that special someone, one often hopes for luck and love to last a lifetime. A diamond as beautiful as this is already a lucky find, but the carat weight carries an extra significance with it. In eastern culture, 8 is considered to be the luckiest number of them all. When 8 appears three times in a sequence, the number is considered a “triple fortune,” and people in China even pay extra to have their telephone numbers include “888.” If you’re lucky enough to be the winning bidder on this beautiful diamond ring, you’ll carry more than a reminder of love on your finger, you’ll hold a reminder of luck and optimism for years to come.
Radiant-Cut Diamond Tennis Bracelet
Why we love it:
Fancy Yellow or “canary” diamonds have been rising in value over the years and this Radiant-Cut Diamond Tennis Bracelet is essential for the discerning collector. Crafted in 18K gold to accentuate the color of the stones, this bracelet is set with radiant-cut diamonds, most with Fancy Yellow color, VS-SI1 clarity, and weighing a total of approximately 18.00 carats. One of the most famous diamonds in the world is actually a Fancy Yellow: the Tiffany Diamond. The impressive 128.54-Carat Fancy Yellow Diamond was famously worn by Audrey Hepburn, and most recently, by Lady Gaga at the 2019 Oscars. Fancy Yellow diamonds occur much more rarely in nature than white diamonds, so their usage may not be as widespread in jewelry designs. However, we are glad to showcase an incredible example of these diamonds in our April auction.