Interview with Amanda Triossi
Bulgari confidant Amanda Triossi earlier this year stayed at the 5-star Phoenicia Hotel where a small army of waiting staff kept her comfortably supplied with green tea and water. Mrs. Triossi is an academic of decorative art, a former Sotheby’s auctioneer turned consultant Bulgari historian, creator of the Bulgari Vintage Collection and curator of the Bulgari Historical Archives. Amanda has a breathless travel schedule that sees her jet-setting across the globe to sit in the homes of the wealthy, VIP's, film stars, models and the truly glamorous, as well as handling some of the world's most beautiful and expensive jewellery. The weekend we meet up, she's in Malta on a mission, to give a public lecture "on one of my favourite jewellery designers", Andrew Grima, as a guest of the ever-active Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti, which is sponsored by the Phoenicia. We catch up with her in Phoenicia's elegant Palm Court to talk sparkle and bling.
Triossi’s fifteen years of work with Bulgari have produced two stunning retrospective books and exhibitions in Rome, Paris, the Far East and next year New York. Her achievements for the luxury brand hit a high with the opening of “125 Years of Italian Magnificence”; a seven gallery-spanning, 600-piece strong Bulgari retrospective exhibition, stretching all the way back to the brand’s founding silversmith at The National Museum of China in Beijing.
After a chat about the history of jewellery, Amanda launches into her favourite subject, Bulgari. "I am in a very good position to understand our brand because my major task for the retrospective exhibition was to contact collectors, survey their collections and select from the best pieces available, and since Bulgari has been around a long time there's a lot of exquisite jewellery. Since 50% of the pieces on display are loaned it's an insurance nightmare! On the upside, this has put me in a very good position because I now know where a lot of things are having met so many owners and their descendants. But the problem with jewels, with jewellery, with Bulgari, is that the Bulgari that I’m looking for is very distinctive, that's my brief, and it dates more or less after the 1950's. It's in the hands of the wealthy, so access can sometimes be a problem."
The Bulgari style, a distinctive look that has captivated royalty and movie stars, among other celebrities, for more than a century, has launched influential trends and revivals in jewelry design. Bulgari is famous for the mixing of colorful semiprecious stones with diamonds; the mounting of ancient coins in gold jewelry; and the creation of easy-to-wear everyday pieces made with precious gems. These and other Bulgari fashions have sparked countless imitations by other jewelers, imitations that can never rival the polish and flair of the original pieces, as so meticulously researched and purchased by Amanda.
Amanda talks about one of her highpoints, when she purchased a superb vintage Bulgari necklace that was worn by Kiera Knightly for the Academy Awards, "Kiera was fantastic, she was so utterly beautiful, the combination of that necklace on that neck was perfect," she reminisces.
Amanda says that the design philosophy of the luxury brand is embedded in its origins, "Luxury brands have become acutely aware of just how important heritage is, having a traceable DNA that imbues the entire ouevre with mystique. In terms of Bulgari this awareness coincided with my joining the company, they realised they had not saved anything, and so they began corporate archives, in Rome. They wanted to collect all the product lines, everything. It was one store to begin with, and very very old, and these origins in Rome spread to New York, Geneva, Paris and Monte Carlo. They had the sort of following that was young and dressed sexily. The jet set. That was who Bulgari was catering for in the 1970's and eighties. I think they can be really credited for understanding that what people wanted was bold, trendy, recognisable design. That distinctive look carries on until today."
Amanda worked for Sotheby’s for fourteen years, and became an auctioneer. She was always interested in design and started writing on jewellery, eventually publishing a book on the history of earrings that became a bestseller. This got her noticed by the Bulgari family and she was commissioned to write a book on Bulgari, "That’s how I met Mr Bulgari. Having had a previous professional life at Sotheby's gave me an acute awareness of how commercially important a retrospective collection can be. It was something being spearheaded by Cartier, so when I went to Bulgari it was actually quite hard to begin with because being a family there’s this attitude that Bulgari is contemporary, now, today, it. So there is this big resistance on the part of the family, “the power of Bulgari is now, you know we are contemporary,” so then to mark time is very difficult for somebody who has spent all his life being creative with the mission of selling something new."
Amanda continues with a sharp insight into the luxury brand market, "Perhaps now you can imagine their faces when I used to say “hang on a minute, you should buy back something that you made 20 years ago,” it really goes against the grain! Heritage is anything but an easy sell."
"The achievements and developments of Bulgari in the past decade, including design trends in jewelry and watches is beyond compare," she says as an aside. There are new lines of luxury fashion accessories as well as the distinctive architecture and interior design of Bulgari stores and hotels. It is these latest accomplishments which have made Bulgari one of the most important luxury brands of the new millennium. The brand is truly "now" but equally "then".
"ZanZan", a Maltese term meaning a “rush of style”, seems to perfectly embody the conversation and the brand. Sticking to the present Amanda says the Roman jeweler’s gem-encrusted golden and enamel snakes, the legendary brand icon, have just featured in a New York retrospective called "Serpenti", displaying dozens of coiled bracelets, belts, watches, and rings crafted in Italy over the past 70 years. This is the essence of Bulgari embodied by Amanda in Malta, good taste, impeccable design, timeless elegance and gorgeous baubles.