CEO of Buccellati Jewellery on Heritage and Today’s Global Market

Lindsay Judge   |   04 - 06 - 2018

 

Buccellati has been keeping family history alive since the eighteenth century. Creating exquisite and unique pieces of jewellery in their Milan based factories for over a hundred years.

 

The jewellery is simply breathtaking, and what makes it unique is the skill and technique that goes into making each piece. The pieces are made so perfectly for the body that you don’t even know you’re wearing them.

 

Many of the brand’s pieces featuring its signature brushed gold, which is engraved stroke by stroke. No two pieces are ever identical due to the way they are crafted by hand by a small team of expert Italian craftsman.

 

This relatively small jewellery brand has been passed down through generations, and Luca Buccellati; part of the original Buccellati family is now at the helm of the business that his grandfather started. The forward thinking CEO struck a deal with a Chinese investor in late 2016 that is allowing him to expand and develop the jewellery house into new markets and areas that previously weren’t possible. While the investor is a fantastic business opportunity, Luca is determined to keep the authenticity of the brand and family history alive in everything he does.

 

Here, we talk to the CEO about the brand’s legacy and his plans for the future of Buccellati.

 

Tell us about the latest jewellery collections .

Our new collections include some with really amazing pieces. The pieces have classic open work. It is fantastic. It looks very Bucellati, not overly expensive and it’s good gold. We managed to mix together white and yellow gold with diamonds and the engraving is all done by hand. It’s beautiful. We have earrings and a ring, we don’t make so many necklaces because it is very difficult to sell them. People don’t want to wear a necklace all the time, whereas a bracelet and ring can be easily paired with a white shirt and jeans and worn every day.

 

So is that what you are aiming to create with the brand; pieces that can be worn any time?

Yes this is the point. Of course we do have pieces that are super top luxury and yes I know we are a little bit more expensive than our competitors but we don’t care because we are the only ones that make everything handmade. There is one bracelet that takes one and a half years to make, it’s so unique and amazing. The metal is so soft I love it, I could even sleep with this bracelet!

 

Wow, how many pieces would you make of something like that?

Some are one of a kind pieces and others we will make ten pieces or less. The point is once you start designing and sketching something that only takes three months to put all the ideas together, but when you actually start to make it there is so much skill involved it takes a really long time.

 

And everything is still made in the original factories?

Yes, everything. It is not made in Italy it is made in Milan! Everything is handmade.

 

 

How do you manage to keep the family history and heritage of the brand alive in a market that is changing so much?

Sometimes we do change our point of view, but we never change our style. So changing the point of view means that we are now wanting to appeal to younger people. We have a new collection which isn’t here today that is aimed at a younger audience with entry prices of 1000 Euro. In the beginning it was tough, but now, all those young people have started to come into the store to see those pieces. We are attracting a lot of people who are around 30 years old. It the past it was starting from around 45/50. It’s changing a lot.

 

And have you specifically targeted the younger audience with the way you are marketing new collections?

Sure. We are now making campaigns for the newspapers. Last year when I was there, a lady came into the store holding a newspaper on the page of the advert and asked: ‘Do you have this?’ That never happened to me with jewellery before so I was like ‘wow!’ This was a 69,000 Euro pair of earrings and she bought it! That never happened before because we never used to advertise. We never had to before because everyone knew about Bucellati, but that is changing – I don’t know why we never did it before but it makes sense to do it now.

 

What about digital marketing have you done any of that yet?

Yes we have Instagram, Facebook. We have a team now of five people to work on it. The difference its ‘wow!’ When I saw the growth of these social media I was amazed. Now we have more of a following on Instagram than some of our competitors.

 

 

How do you think the brand has evolved through the decades?

Our goal is to become a big, big company. And we are doing very well and proud to be in the right place at the right moment. We are going very fast. We now have a new Chinese shareholder with us, so that makes sense, not only for money, but they open for us the China market which we weren’t really in before. They have opened up five stores in six months in Beijing and Shanghai.

 

 

Which markets are most important to you currently?

There are two different markets. The first one is still the USA, and then the second is Asia. We are doing very well in the Gulf, we are working very well with Altayer group and plan to do so for years. I don’t intend to open up a store here. I don’t have the money to open a store in Dubai Mall at the moment – the rent is higher than Fifth Avenue! It’s crazy. I’m doing very well in Harvey Nichols. I want to do more but we will get there. The problem with Buccellati is that we have a lot of requests but we can’t satisfy all of them. Out of 10 we can probably only make 6 or7 requests, we just don’t have the time to make all of these pieces by hand.

 

You mentioned the Chinese investor was it difficult letting someone else be part of the business?

When we signed with them I made it very clear that we would never ever change our production. Everything will be handmade for the next hundred years. It was quite easy because they understood everything. At the beginning I was really scared, but as soon as I met them they understood, and they promised me that we would never do any production in China. The only thing that they might do differently, in ten or twenty years, is make a purse with a Buccellati clasp. That’s an idea I have. Super high end – 100,00 Euros!

 

So what’s the plan in terms of expanding the team and business so you can meet the demand of customers?

Now we have a school. For all the young guys who want to learn to be goldsmiths, engraving, setting stones etc. We have 85 new guys join who come after work at night to learn. Currently we have 150 people making the jewellery for us and another 80 will join them. They take the course four two years and then they will join the company. We pay them to come because we want them to learn. You need to be really skilled to do this job it’s not easy to do.

 

 

Where do you source your materials?

We use a lot of beautiful coloured stones which is part of our DNA. We use diamonds of course as well. They are sourced from all over the world. We have a lot of suppliers. Diamonds, OK only from one place but for the coloured stones we have a lot of different suppliers.

 

What makes your designs unique?

The inspiration comes from the Italian Rennaissance. But the shape and engraving of the gold you won’t find from anyone else. The engraving means a lot to me. All these little lines it’s so detailed, nobody else does this. Each of these lines are made one by one, so it takes between four and ten days just to do the engraving.

 

What’s the one piece of jewellery every woman should own in her lifetime?

If I’m being honest with you: diamonds. A big engagement ring with a diamond.

 

How important is family to you?

It’s so important. I’m working with my family since I was a kid. I hope one day my son or daughter will join the company but I’m not sure yet. They have to deserve it – not just get the job because they are my children. So I want them to study really hard, and then maybe one day one of the two of them or both can join the company. My daughter is showing interest. She is coming to New York with me next week.

 

What about your watches what can you tell us about them?

Watches is a really tough market to be honest with you. We started ten years ago making men’s and women’s watches. We are doing OK but we’re not making money on watches. We are doing quite well with jewellery watches – they are watches that look like a piece of jewellery, with diamonds and stones. With them we are doing very well. In this country we are doing very well with these. People buy these watches because they are more like a piece of jewellery than a watch. We are starting a new collection of men’s and women’s watches that will come out in two years and it is going to be a little bit different from what we have done in the past.

 

What other products do well here in the Gulf?

We do very well with cuff bracelets and cocktail rings with big stones. But not necklaces, nobody wants a necklace anymore. The people that can spend the money for necklaces they already have two or three that maybe come from their parents, so they don’t want to buy them.

 

 

How do you think the fine jewellery industry is changing and what is the future for Buccellati?

At Buccellati we will try to make a new collection every year. We need to be in line with all the other brands so we must do this. At the moment it is really only a new collection every two years. It is difficult because everything is handmade but we will get there. Next year I have another new collection which is breathtaking.

 

What do you love most about what you do?

Meeting people. I love to meet people. For me this is something in my DNA and I want people to know what Bucellati is. And you know what? If you buy one piece of Bucellati you’re going to be a customer for the rest of your life. I still get goosebumps when I talk about this jewellery.

 

What do you like to do on your days off?

Playing golf, and sometimes relaxing and doing nothing.

 

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