Mario Buccellati: Prince of Goldsmiths

The Italian goldsmith Mario Buccellati is known for his mixed-metal delicate textural creations. His pieces reflect a rich history of classic, yet fresh design, which allow his jewelry to stand the test of time. Buccellati is best known for his intricate textural details in gold, silver and platinum derived from such inspirations as Venetian lace, Etruscan patterns, Italian vegetation, insects, animals and other Italian patterns. Rising into popularity in the 1920s and 30s, Buccellati’s works are still produced today in the same form.

Mario Buccellati was born into a family of goldsmiths, beginning with Contardo Buccellati, who operated a shop in Milan in the late 1700s. Mario made a name for himself in the 1920s with his deep-rooted entrepreneurial spirit, humility and incredible skill to design unique pieces for his most discriminating clients, while keeping his style aesthetic consistent. He was a friend of the eccentric poet Gabriele d’Annunzio, for whom Buccellati made a number of unique compact and purse designs, often engraved with the poet’s favorite phrases in Italian: “Forse che sì, forse che no” (Maybe yes, maybe no) and “Impipatene e guarda in alto” (Don’t give a damn and look upward). Similar playful phrases can be seen on the fashionable items of today. Buccellati loved his work, and he also understood the importance of designing for the client. He kept a detailed record of his prominent clientele [Mario Buccellati, Prince of Goldsmiths, by Martina Corgnati, Rizzoli New York, 1998].

Venetian lace is a prominent textural inspiration for Buccellati, as seen in the delicate geometric piercings of Lot 280 in Doyle’s Important Jewelry sale on April 27, 2017. Buccellati made frequent use of textures to define his pieces, and his skill at craftsmanship could produce the most transformative works, i.e. silver that looked like diamonds, gold that looked like linen (Lot 212), and commercial-grade colored stones that could seem more brilliant than actuality.

Buccellati operated his highly successful jewelry shop in Milan during World War II, although silver, gold and platinum were in scant provision. Instead, he incorporated copper and chipped stones set up-side down in a semi-cabochon form, to add delight to his pieces. The practice of using similar stones continues today, as seen in Lot 214. Buccellati’s use of colored stones is purely for emphasis, to compliment the wearer, and not to distract.

His designs also tended toward the ancient, drawing on Etruscan inspiration for his silver sets, as well as the organic, using botanicals for his jewelry, such as Lot 213 and Lot 274  

Buccellati was an exceptional jeweler, but also a family-man that relied heavily on his wife and business-partner, Claudia. Together they raised five sons: Gianmaria, Frederico, Lorenzo, Luca and Giorgio. Most of whom continued the Buccellati jewelry legacy, which is now in its third-generation. The Buccellati name is now global, and still the most recognizable in Italian classic jewelry design.

Portrait of specialist Martha Garcia
Vice President / Appraiser, Jewelry Department
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