Bling Bling!

Bulgari Exhibit Kicks Off at HMNS

As a jeweler to the stars, the company knows a thing or two about dazzling.

By Sarah Gabbart May 2, 2014

It’s tough to stand out in a room full of celebrities, but the sparkling sautoir dancing in the light of the museum case is impossible to look away from. Sure, I love Sofia Loren and Juliette Binoche as much as the next gal, but diamonds remain a girl’s best friend. 

Elizabeth Taylor's necklace, in living, dazzling color. Photo via Bulgari.

The necklace, a diamond-and-sapphire beaut, is a clear favorite—attracting the admiration of a man who knows more than a thing or two about shiny rocks: Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) President and Curator of Gems and Minerals, Joel Bartsch. 

Bulgari: 130 Years of Masterpieces
May 2-October 5
Houston Museum of Natural Science
5555 Hermann Park Dr.

“For me the piece is extremely powerful because it has this 65-carat, super-killer blue sapphire,” Bartsch enthused. “It starts with the stone, but then the design is classic Bulgari—big and bold, platinum and diamonds, very, very beautiful. It also happens to be the necklace Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor for her 40th birthday. For the American public, it’s hard to beat Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. They’re our royalty!”

Founded in Rome in the late 1800s, Bulgari evolved from a family jewelry shop to an international brand owned by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy. Over the past century, the company has developed quite the following among the rich and powerful, including two local ladies known for their killer style: Lynn Wyatt and Joanne King Herring, who both donated pieces to be shown in Houston.

Burton quipped: “The only word Elizabeth knows in Italian is 'Bulgari." Photo via Bulgari.

“We’re lucky to have two longstanding clients of Bulgari with the resources to attain these pieces who were very generous,” said Bartsch. “I love the connection this brand has to Houston.”

The Bulgari: 130 Years of Masterpieces exhibit was custom-made for HMNS and features rarely-seen works from Bulgari’s extensive Heritage Collection, an in-house museum dedicated to preserving the company’s former works.

When asked why Houston was chosen to partner with the brand for a one-of-a-kind show, Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin couldn’t contain his enthusiasm for the Bayou City.

“[Bulgari choose Houston for] two reasons: the city of Houston very well represents the American experience,” Babin said. “It’s creative, artistic, entrepreneurial, bold, and powerful—in Houston, everything is big! It’s just like our designs—daring and bold. There is, between Houston and Bulgari, a set of common values.”

Sometimes the jeweler will hold a piece for years to wait on the perfect stone to match the others, which is the case with one of Bulgari's most recent emerald necklaces. This one, from 1961, is on display. Photo via Bulgari.

“The second reason is that Houston has this incredible natural science museum that hosts, thanks to Joel, the most incredible mineral crystal collection in the world.”

To correspond with the opening of the exhibit, Bulgari unveiled its fully renovated Galleria location. The like-new boutique reflects the brand’s luxurious Italian roots, from Veneziana flooring to a stunning hand-blown Murano-glass chandelier. Bulgari is located in the Houston Galleria near Neiman Marcus on the second floor. 

Photo by Studio Fabien Iliou.

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