We recently took a closer look at the history and current state of Bulgari women’s fine jewelry and haute horlogerie, and we discovered some of the brand’s most important creations in the field of jewelry and women’s watches. Today, our focus will be on Bulgari’s unique creation, the timeless, fierce serpent represented by the Bulgari Serpenti.
First, the basics. Why the snake? Coiled throughout human history, the symbolism of the alluring snake can be traced back to ancient Greek and Roman mythology. A theme representing wisdom, vitality and the cycle of life, the snake has attracted and empowered exotic beauties from Cleopatra to the Bulgari women with its charms. Known for its ability to hypnotize its prey – a skill that no other animal possesses – the snake is also known for its seductive tactics. with her enchanting colors and light dressing, Ms. Serpenti embodies a sensual elegance: she is a modern-day Queen of the Nile.
In the 1940s, the watches took on a sinuous serpentine shape, reinterpreting a jewelry tradition dating back to Greek and Roman times. Thus, the first Bulgari Serpenti models featured a flexible body made of shiny gold, set with brilliant diamonds at the head and tail. Precious snakes follow the characteristic gemstone scales or colored enamels, while others are coiled with Bulgari’s signature soft Tubogas technique.
Over the decades, the Bulgari Serpenti collection has undergone numerous but equally creative iterations as the snake motif has evolved from simple bracelets to two and multi-row timepieces on the wrist and neck, all the way to other items that have played a small but important role in completing and defining the touch of Bulgari rings, handbags, sunglasses and other accessories.
Given this prominent role, and the high profile of Bulgari Serpenti jewelry and watches, all pieces, regardless of their function, must combine elegance and vivid color with sophisticated manufacturing techniques, the most famous of which, closely associated with Bulgari, is the Tubogas technique.
The so-called tubogas (or gas tube) technique was developed in the second half of the 19th century and used by Bulgari in the 1940s and 1950s to create its first Serpenti watches. the term “tubogas” was inspired by the distinctive shape of the gas delivery tubes used since the 1920s. This theme was revived by Bulgari in the 1970s and used effectively in the creation of watches, bracelets, necklaces and rings, which became one of the company’s trademarks. Bulgari Tubogas are flexible straps with a circular profile that can be produced without welding.
In practice, the result is a shorter or longer bracelet (depending on the jewelry or watch model in question) that is very flexible and can be worn comfortably – a feature not always associated with fine jewelry or watches – while still being firmly coiled around the wrist, arm or neck.
As Bulgari explains, the realization of the Tubogas strap requires hours of expert work: it consists of wrapping two long gold bars with raised edges around a copper or wooden core, so that the edges interlock firmly with each other to form a continuous, non-welded piece; the core is then removed or dissolved in acid. The flexibility of these metal bars is truly remarkable, and excellent results have been achieved. The quest for color effects led to alternating yellow, pink and white gold bars and bracelets that changed color with each coil. In the 1970s, there was also the use of gray steel in combination with gold.
Beyond its sheer technicality, color is another of the most recognizable characteristics of Bulgari’s creations – as seen in the sparkling eyes of Bulgari Serpenti or the colorful splashes of celebrity bracelets on the red carpet. In addition to its vast experience, Bulgari is known for its color innovation, use of never-before-seen stones and unusual materials – resulting in bold new collections and bespoke, unique and extremely fine jewelry or watches. Bulgari developed this bold, unprecedented style, exploring rare color combinations of semi-precious and precious stones and inventing the gemstone rainbow.
Through the history and symbolism of the snake, Bulgari Serpenti builds on a vast and extremely rich cultural background: as we pointed out in the introduction, the snake is an alluring symbol that dates back to ancient Greek and Roman mythology. Representing wisdom, vitality and the cycle of life, the snake transcends centuries, traditions and cultures to become a symbol of beauty and power: adorning Aphrodite, the goddess of love; held by Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine; the power of the snake is undeniably associated with humanity.
The history of civilization is intertwined with this icon – even Queen Victoria was tempted to fall for the snake engagement ring in the 19th century. Perhaps no leader in the world was more associated with the snake than Cleopatra, whose royal adornment and divine power doubled the reverence for the sliding serpent. This theme is equally mythical today, as evidenced by the history of Bulgari’s serpentine jewelry, the Serpentine.
From ancient history to the present, the latest addition to Bulgari’s Serpenti watch collection is the Serpenti Incantati – incantati meaning “enchanting” in Italian. Inspired by a sparkling diamond brooch, the diamond snake encircles a perfectly traditional circular dial that seems to be in perpetual motion around it. At first glance, the round watch’s delicate dial reveals a jeweled snake frame, while its precious tail slips into the watch’s diamond bracelet.
The geometric diamond elements are both flexible and wearable, as each one is engraved, hand-set and assembled in Bulgari’s Haute Joaillerie workshops. 30 mm wide, the 18-carat white or red gold case houses Bulgari’s bespoke quartz movement – the only indications remain the hours and minutes, as indicated by the blue hands above the snowflake pavé dial, which is topped by 116 brilliant-cut diamonds. The combination of intricate case manufacturing techniques, vibrant colors and distinctive shapes reveals the essence of Bulgari and symbolizes the seductive power of the woman who wears it.
Whether interpreted in realistic or geometric abstraction, the snake brings together Bulgari’s most iconic symbols: a love of color, juxtaposition of materials, soft wearability and innovative handcrafted techniques. From rings and timepieces to entire collections, from simple everyday accessories all the way to the most sophisticated pieces in fine jewelry, Bulgari Serpenti is more vivid than ever, looking back on 2700 years of rich cultural history and moving into the future where it remains as important as ever.