Is Jewellery Art? Bvlgari & Vogue at the NGV

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Is Jewellery Art? That was the question posed to an audience on Monday night at the NGV by esteemed Jewellery History and Curator of the Bulgari Heritage Collection, Amanda Triossi. The bustling (mostly NGV member) crowd were delighted to hear from the eloquent historian in both a formal talk on the relationship between art and jewellery, before seguing into an informal discussion featuring both Triossi and Vogue Australia Editor Edwina McCann. Iolanthe from Ruby Slipper (inset above), reports.

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Historian Amanda Triossi is an expert jewellery historian, pictured above in discreet (very Melbourne!) black, complimented by glowing jewels.

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Vogue Australia Editrix Edwina McCann wearing an elegant ‘Serpentine’ bracelet from Bulgari (left) with stylish friends.

Softly spoken and eminently knowledgeable, Triossi took to the stage with a half hour discussion of the relationship between jewellery and art. Vasari defined jewellery craftsmanship amongst the lower arts – the decorative arts, with architecture, painting and sculpture identified as higher forms of artistic endeavour. Triossi feels that jewellery is of equal value to other kind of art – its key difference is creation in an almost-indestructible set of materials.

Triossi notes that jewellery is increasingly valued for its carats – its monetary worth. This was not always the case, with many great artists from the Renaissance trained in the physical craft of jewel-construction. Note below: Brunelleschi and Cellini – both of whom were trained as jewellers whilst apprentices. Jewels used to enjoy very elaborate and ornate settings, with the stones themselves ‘icing on the cake’ rather than the key feature of the piece.

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Pictured middle, one can see the care and attention to which Mary’s stunning cape jewel is rendered by artist Ghirlandaio – also trained to work in precious gems as part of his apprenticeship.

More contemporarily, jewellery is appreciated in terms of the sheer largesse of stone cut and fiscal value – not because of its setting or the decorative craftsmanship or narrative surrounding the stone. Triossi spoke on Bulgari’s unique position as a jeweller happy to mix an array of stones of both different monetary value AND different shade- resulting in the iconic rainbow-brilliant decorative pieces we understand as the brand’s signature. She also showcased an array of beautiful ‘coin jewels’ I particularly loved – mixing precious metals with ancient and modern coins. I attach several examples of these below – beginning with a 1960’s ‘blaxploitation’ ghetto jewel that both harkened to antiquity whilst responding to a cultural movement.

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Triossi drew attention to the relationship between ancient-modern mixes in both Bulgari artisan design and architecture – highlighting the AT&T building featuring a roman pediment atop a skyscraper.

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The colorful, opulent Bulgari jewels most associated with the brand.

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Yours truly, doing my best interpretation of a byzantine jewel.

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