Snake Jewelry Still Reigns: The Bulgari Serpenti Collection

Bulgari Serpenti Pendants
From the 2016 Bulgari Serpenti Collection. Photo courtesy bulgari.com.

When it comes to jewelry motifs, the serpent may be the most controversial. It can be a symbol of power and beauty…or a harbinger of poison and evil. While snake jewelry dates back to Paleolithic times, it has never been more popular than it is today. Just ask the experts at Bulgari, who have featured the slithering creatures in their Serpenti jewelry collections since the 1940s. Let’s take a look.

Elizabeth Taylor in Cobra Headdress as Cleopatra
Elizabeth Taylor Wears a Cobra Headdress in the 1963 Film, Cleopatra.

A Symbol of Ancient and Hollywood Royalty

Snake jewelry was prevalent in ancient Egypt, where the serpent was as a symbol of royalty and power. Cleopatra’s crown featured a cobra poised to strike, representing protection, fertility, eternity…and fear.

Elizabeth Taylor's Bulgari Serpenti Watch
Elizabeth Taylor’s Bulgari Serpenti Wristwatch was Auctioned by Christie’s in 2011.
Photo Courtesy of christies.com

Elizabeth Taylor’s starring role in the 1963 film Cleopatra helped popularize snake jewelry in the modern era. In a perfect example of life imitating art, Taylor commemorated her role with a Bulgari Serpenti wraparound wristwatch, a gift from co-star and future husband Richard Burton.

Bulgari Snake / Serpenti Pendants
Serpenti Pendants by Bulgari. Photo courtesy of bulgari.com.

Long Before Logos

According to Aja Raden, author of Stoned: Jewelry Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World, Bulgari made its mark in the ‘60s, during the rise of the snake jewelry craze. In an interview in Town & Country, Raden said: “What Bulgari did that was really groundbreaking was…to stamp the Bulgari name twice, on either side of a gem setting—not hidden like a signature but right out there for people to see.”

Up until that time, jewelry had not been visually branded. The Bulgari stamp—on its Serpenti jewelry and more—was the forerunner of the logo-centric brands we crave today.

Diamond, Amethyst, Malachite and Rubellite Bulgari Serpenti Pendant with Chain of Gold Featuring Diamonds and Amethyst
Diamond, Amethyst and Malachite Bulgari Serpenti Pendant with Chain of Gold Featuring Diamonds and Amethyst. Photo courtesy of bulgari.com.

What’s In-Store?

In its latest Serpenti collection Bulgari focuses on the more delicate aspect of the snake’s nature. Featuring long chains with snakehead pendants, the newest Serpenti styles include snake eyes of malachite, amethyst and rubellite.

2016 Bulgari Serpenti Pendant
2016 Bulgari Serpenti Necklace with Rubellite Eyes. Photo courtesy of bulgari.com.

A hexagonal scale pattern, which imitates the skin of the snake, is a recurring pattern in the 2016 jewelry designs.

To learn more about the Bulgari Serpenti Collection, please visit Bulgari.com. For a good selection of vintage snake jewelry, head to 1stdibs.com.

Source: Town & Country

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