As Buccellati opens its first store in the UAE, we meet Maria Cristina and Luca Buccellati to discuss the Italian jeweller’s future in the region.
Buccellati Dubai Opening Event
With a long history of over 100 years, Buccellati is one of the most historical jewellers in Italy. Its unique style produces exquisite jewellery pieces that are made completely by hand and embrace the finest Italian craftsmanship techniques. A Buccellati piece is instantly recognisable thanks to its iconic style and design which is different from anything else out there and it is this that continues to set them apart and push forward while still staying true to the heritage of the brand.
Founded by Mario Buccellati in Milan in 1919 Buccellati has always had a special relationship with its clients. As the company grew it was passed on through the generations of the Buccellati family who have continued to keep the vision of its founder alive. It is one of the only brands today that sees the original family still at the forefront of the brand. In 2019, the Richemont group announced that it had acquired the brand with a long-term plan to expand further globally but continue to keep the family spirit that has defined the brand for over a century. Part of the expansion saw the recent opening of Buccellati’s first store in the UAE. Situated in The Dubai Mall it will allow a new customer base to experience the true beauty of this “Made In Italy” design. As the new boutique opens we talk to Maria Cristina Buccellati, Global Communications and Marketing Director, and her brother Luca, Special Sales/VIP Client Director, to discover what this moment means for the brand in the Middle East.
First of all welcome to Dubai and congratulations on this beautiful store – tell us about why you decided to open now and what this step means for Buccellati in the Middle East?
Luca: Opening a store here in Dubai has been a dream of ours for many years. Now we are part of the Richemont Group, which made that dream become a reality. At first, it was difficult for us to find a location for the boutique but once we found it, we immediately started working on it and we opened within a few months which was very fast. We have a great location amongst the other jewellery brands and it is in an area where a lot of people walk around. We had the soft opening on February 15th and the real opening is actually today, so you are one of the first to visit! As you know, we have a very different style of jewellery from any other brands and we have been doing this for 100 years so have a long story and heritage of making and selling jewellery that we want to share with the region.
What can you tell us about the new high jewellery collection?
Maria Cristina: The collection was created last year for the Haute Couture season in Paris and it was originally composed of 15 pieces, but we have actually continued producing pieces because we had such great success with it. This year’s collection was inspired by Monet’s paintings. You can see this from the colours of the stones that have been used. We decided to call it the Il Giardino by Buccellati collection, meaning “garden” and the idea is inspired by flowers. We have blue sapphires, and green tourmaline – all of the colours are inspired by the artist’s paintings.
There is something very important in many of the pieces called “enchainment”, each small piece is enchained to the other, everything is handmade and this allows for complete flexibility of the pieces on the skin as if they are painted on. Every element is a one-of-a-kind piece and that is something quite important at Buccellati and something I think is quite important for our customers in this market.
Luca: If you look at the pieces they are so light, it is as if they are floating on the skin and this is something that is integral to Buccellati. They are also versatile for day and night as some pieces are interchangeable and that’s something people love in this country.
Maria Cristina: Looking forward to next year we are already preparing an amazing collection, we cannot say the name but it specifically recalls the engraving that we are known for. As you can see we have many different styles, but all of them are immediately identifiable as Buccellati. Engraving in the first element, then we have lace and flexibility, and then we have the honeycomb workmanship which is fantastic.
The incredible craftsmanship in your jewels is a key element of the brand can you share a little about that and the importance of preserving these traditional techniques?
Luca: It is so difficult to keep those people working for us but we try to do it as well as find new people to join the company. We created the Buccellati Academy and we are trying to recruit young people who are interested in learning crafts such as gold smithery and engraving, we are recruiting experts in gemstones, etc. and we are bringing them together and teaching them how to work in the Buccellati way and then many of them will join us as craftsmen or women.
Are you seeing any interest coming back to these craftsmanship skills from the younger generations?
Luca: Yes a little bit, but it’s still not as much as we would like. I think it is because in these times working with your hands is not always considered an intellectual skill. But these people are artists, they are like painters. They are not just using their hands they are also using their brains and it requires great skills. With all of these methods, you can’t afford to make any mistakes, or you would have to start the piece all over again, so the skills required are so special. Then you have the concentration required. These people can only work for around three hours at a time because the concentration required to do these intricate tasks is so much. One special thing about Buccellati jewellery pieces is that you can always see right through them. And this is why they are so light and easy to wear. It’s something beautiful that is exclusive to us and it’s in our DNA.
What do you think sets Buccellati apart from other jewellers?
Luca: It is our craftsmanship of course. A piece of Buccellati jewellery is instantly recognisable and different from anything else. We are crazy about detail, and we work in a unique way that no other brand does. One necklace can take over a year to make and our customers will wait that long because they know it is worth the wait. That is something incredible and it sets us apart from others.
Now you have the store here in Dubai what is the next step for the brand in the region and can we expect to see more of you moving forward?
Maria Cristina: We already have boutiques in the Middle East in Doha and Kuwait and we will be opening stores in Jeddah and Riyadh by the end of the year, and then eventually we will look at opening something more in the UAE, perhaps in Abu Dhabi. That’s not confirmed or in the plans yet but obviously the idea is to expand. The only thing that we must be careful of is that as all our pieces are handmade, we cannot open too many shops as we will not have the products to fill them! So there must be a good balance and we must not lose our exclusivity.
What are some of the collections you are going to be sharing in the region and highlights readers should look out for?
Maria Cristina: Firstly we have the Il Giardino high jewellery collection of which some of the pieces will remain in the store while others will continue to tour the world. Then we have the iconic collection; Macri. Then we have Rombi, Hawaii, and Ramage, all of which are all our DNA products. And then there is Opera which is a lower price point collection, and finally, the Blossom collection which is probably one of our best-selling collections today. The Blossom collection comes in silver and it was created by the next generation of our family. Lucrezia Buccellati my brother Andrea’s daughter was very young and could not wear the high jewellery pieces so we said, ‘why don’t you make something more affordable?’. So with my daughter and my other brother’s daughter, they created this silver collection. Lucrezia has remained in the company as a designer, so we are passing through the generations. The Blossom collection is of a lower price point, and we made it in silver with either diamonds or stones and it opens us up to a new audience. It’s really very interesting. Originally we made it for young girls, but even women like me wear it because it is versatile and can be worn from day to night.
Luca: It’s something new at Buccellati because years ago our collections were starting at 8,000 Euros upwards, now, you can buy something for 800 Euros.
What can you share about your clientele here in the region – what are they looking for from a jewellery brand?
Maria Cristina: We know we have a lot of clients here in the region because they visit us at our stores around the world. What they are usually looking for is something unique. But now that is what we are going to discover while we are here in Dubai. And we will also get to meet customers from all around the world as they pass through The Dubai Mall, so it is very exciting.
Luca: We know the awareness of the brand is there but to be here now and to see what happens and the type of customers that come to our store is very exciting.
Can you share a little on the concept of the store and how it reflects the brand’s DNA?
Maria Cristina: Yes all of our stores around the world have the same concept. There is a combination of ancient and modern elements. We have panels and display boxes that have been preserved from an old shop in Place Vendôme from the 1700s. We bought them from an antique dealer and I thought they had the perfect look for this store. Also, the jewellery cases were designed by my grandfather, but we also have modern cases and there is a nice mix of modernity and tradition, much like the brand.
As a family business, how do you balance work and family life?
Maria Cristina: Each one of us in the family has a different role in the company. Luca is in charge of private clients, I’m in charge of communications, and my brother Andrea is in charge of design.
Luca: We love it and we have fun together, we make decisions together when we are laughing and relaxing and everything is easier.
Tell us about some of your memories of Buccellati throughout the years?
Luca: There is one piece that will always stay in my mind. It was a flamingo that was commissioned in full gold by a customer from San Diego. He wanted a life-size flamingo for his garden. I told him it would be around one million Euros to make and he said “OK! Do it!” So we made it and shipped it to San Diego. I went there to ensure it arrived safely and he was amazed. It was a very memorable experience! He has passed away now but his son sent me a picture of the garden and the flamingo is still there! Some of the stories we have of people buying strange things are amazing.
Maria Cristina: I remember when we were young someone commissioned a headboard for their bed. It was a Mexican lady and she wanted the headboard made in full silver. My father made it and I remember thinking it was so huge, but I was very young at the time. Now they’ve sold it on auction and when I saw it again it was really tiny! When I was young it felt huge! So yes, we get very unusual requests from time to time.
Luca: And we can truly make anything because everything is handmade. I had a customer who was a fan of golden retrievers and her dog passed away. She wanted a full-size retriever made completely in silver. It was 75kg of silver and it took one and a half years to make!
What is a final message you would send to your clients in the region?
Luca: Buccellati is a family. We have beautiful jewellery and it’s probably the only brand left where you can visit one of our stores and shake hands with one of the family members. We are so proud to meet our customers. And once you buy a Buccellati piece once, you will never leave.