Carolina Bucci: The Magic of Meaning
What does your jewelry really mean to you? That’s what Carolina Bucci, now 38, asked herself when she first started designing her own pieces at age 21.
Known for her signature collections, Lucky and Woven, the Florence-born, New York and London-based jewelry designer remembers exchanging friendship bracelets every summer in Tuscany’s Forte dei Marmi with her best friends. While studying Fine Arts and Jewelry Design in New York, before returning to Florence to work alongside local goldsmiths, Bucci thought a lot about jewelry with ‘meaning’ attached to it — in particular, spiritual meanings, which didn’t interest her. It was while playing around with mixing gold and coloured silk that Bucci started focusing on “what it was to give and receive jewellery — and the moments that made these exchanges special,” she recalls. Her friendship bracelet design, she says, was her true “Eureka” moment. “It was really the piece that proved to me that I could make Carolina Bucci, the brand, work,” she said.
And that, she did. Working with the same techniques and tools used by her great-grandfather (like the centuries-old Florentine textile loom she uses to weave gold and silk threads), her designs are a favorite among celebrities and are regularly featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and W magazine. Bucci has also been listed in Vanity Fair’s annual ‘Power Player’ list for the jewelry industry for several years running, and a selection of her designs is permanently showcased in the jewelery collection of the Palazzo Pitti Museum in Florence.
Latest Revival spoke to Bucci about the inspirations behind her intricate designs; her rules when it comes to wearing jewelry (hint, they’re made to be broken); and what makes her rare, old-world design techniques so incredibly special.
You have said that your Gitane collection is inspired by exotic gypsy women, a Chinese princess and the ruined city of Maya. What is it about these ideas that inspire you?
These influences are all things that have helped me shape a collection. Often a collection starts with a single piece that I am compelled to make. In order to widen that piece out into a collection I find it is best to tell myself a story… so the Gitane collection in my mind was the personal jewelry collection of a beautiful gypsy traveler, for example. In that sense the creative urge seems very much like the play and make believe stories that I watch my two children practice every day.
Your family has been in the jewellery business since 1885. How did they become jewelry makers? And how does their history shape your own designs?
My great grandfather was a watch chain manufacturer and watch repair craftsman in Florence, Italy. Over time, he found he was more interested in the jewelry aspects of his work — embellishing the watch chains of his clients — than he was in the actual watches themselves. That’s how my family became jewelers, and that heritage is extremely important to me. The handcrafted nature of the jewellery is essential to Carolina Bucci. I know all my jewelers personally and interact with them constantly at the design stage, refining ideas, just as my father and his father did over the years. Of course, these days we are creating for a brand, which is new for the family business, but the soul of the brand remains located around the workshops near the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.
Was making jewelry something you have always wanted to do? Or is it something you fell into because it’s so much apart of your heritage?
I always wanted to do it. From a very early age there was nothing else that seemed as interesting, or as natural for me. As soon as I was old enough, I left Italy for New York to study Jewelry Design at FIT. It was while I was in New York that I discovered I was interested in creating a brand, and everything flowed very naturally. Of course, having the support of a family in the business made things so much easier.
Your woven pieces are made using traditional Italian techniques, like with Florentine textile looms. Can you explain why this is so unique in jewelry design?
The looms that we use to make our woven jewelry are the same looms that were used to weave Renaissance tapestries hundreds of years ago. We have adapted them to use gold chains as well as silk threads, and by doing so we can create the fluid feeling of our pieces which are at the same time 18 carat fine jewellery. They feel like very precious pieces of fabric that sit against your skin in a very supple way, which is unique in the jewelry world.
How would you describe the ultimate Carolina Bucci woman?
She is relaxed, confident and curious. She loves fashion and luxury — but she doesn’t revere it. She makes things work for her.
What style of jewelry is your personal favorite? Is there any you don’t like?
My favourite piece is often one from my latest collection. Right now it is the key pendant from ‘Looking Glass’. And, I would say that rather than don’t like, there are definitely times when I have seen certain things enough and they need to be retired (at least for a while). It’s healthy to edit and prune collections.
Coco Chanel famously advised taking one piece off before leaving the house. Do you have any rules in the way you wear jewelry?
Not really… If I wrote down a rule then I would probably break it first thing tomorrow.
What are three pieces of jewelry you would save in a house fire and why?
The diamond pendants of my two sons which I wear nearly every day to remind me of my boys when I am not with them; my Labradorite ‘C’ ring from my Scarab collection that has become a kind of personal signifier; and the tiny butterfly ring that my husband bought in a downtown junk shop to propose to me with, and then let me design my own ring. Very wise.