Jewellery pieces from the Bulgari archive were put on show in Sharjah yesterday, alongside traditional handmade Emirati artefacts.
The unique one-day event was the brainchild of the Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council and was held under the patronage of Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, founder and chairwoman of Irthi, and the wife of Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah.
Held at Chedi Al Bait, the Irthi-Bulgari exhibition presented Bulgari heritage jewels from the past 50 years, with 41 pieces that represented some of the jewellery house’s signatures, from its mastery of coloured stones to motifs inspired by its home city, Rome. Classics such as the Serpenti and Tubogas were a reminder why the brand was a favourite with celebrities including Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Anita Ekberg, Claudia Cardinale, Ingrid Bergman and Elizabeth Taylor.
They were placed alongside a curated collection of objects made from local crafts and weaving practices, including Sayr Yaay, Al Leed and Talli Netted Macrame, highlighting Irthi’s mission to preserve traditional artisanal techniques and recontextualise them for a contemporary audience.
For example, Talli Pearled Macrame is a weave hybrid and it takes 99 hours to create a metre of fabric. Another technique, Janah, which refers to the winged fringes created by leather strips, incorporates pearls into the design.
“Today’s exhibition, which marks our second collaboration with Bulgari, is an outcome of our efforts to push the boundaries of the diversity of our crafts in the region and open doors for international collaborations to expand the universe of our crafts heritage and its vocabulary,” said Reem bin Karam, director of NAMA Women Advancement, of which Irthi is an affiliate. “It is an honour to host an exhibition that firmly casts the UAE’s cultural imprint alongside a global brand known for the excellence of its exquisite craftsmanship.
“Talli has been chosen for its pivotal position in the cultural history of the UAE and due to its historical importance of supporting female Emirati artisans and communities. The contemporary interpretations of Talli developed by Irthi’s Bidwa artisans are ensuring the craft's continuity into the contemporary markets. Both Bulgari’s jewellery collections and Irthi’s Talli craft pay tribute to the artistic heritage of our distinctive cultures.”
The jewels were presented under four broad themes: Master of Colours, Timeless Sparkling, Roman Heritage and Inspired by Nature. Notable items in the Master of Colours section included a 1959 Giardinetto brooch in gold and platinum with sapphires, emeralds, rubies and diamonds. A selection of 1973 Carre brooches in gold with tourmalines, topazes, rubellites, amethysts, sapphires and diamonds also sat in this segment.
A star attraction in the Timeless Sparkling section was an oval fluted Melone Evening Bag from the 1970s, with a silk cord and a gem-set thumb piece that opens to reveal a velvet interior and mirrored lid. The Roman Heritage section paid homage to the Italian city, with jewels inspired by the Obelisk in Piazza del Popolo and the pentagonal design of the monumental Castel Sant'Angelo.
On display for the first time were a Naturalia necklace and bracelet in gold.
Lucia Bosciani, brand and heritage curator for Bulgari, said: “As a brand invested in protecting our Italian heritage to secure our future growth, we are happy to co-operate with Irthi, a brand that protects and supports the artisans in creating crafts in line with local heritage, and in the process, gives new life to traditional crafts.
"This is very much in tune with what Bulgari does. We share common values such as the love for tradition, but are always moving forward, always looking at the future.”