A knockout high-jewelry Bulgari Serpenti necklace glistening with more than 200 carats of diamonds is one of the showstoppers up for bids at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sale in New York on Wednesday. “To our knowledge, it’s the biggest version of the Serpenti necklace,” says Frank Everett, senior director of Sotheby’s Luxury Division, which is not releasing any details on the piece’s provenance.
The signed modern necklace is flexible and versatile with attenuated 18-karat white gold scales that are fully pavéed with round diamonds. The head is appointed with pear-shaped diamond eyes. At 41 inches long, it can be wrapped twice around the neck or worn as a belt. Lot 145 is estimated to sell for between US$800,000 and US$1 million.
Actress Charlize Theron wore a similar piece to this year’s Academy Awards. Also spotted on the red carpet wearing Bulgari Serpenti necklaces in recent years were Miley Cyrus, Kiki Layne, Bella Hadid, and Naomi Watts. A 1962 photo shows Elizabeth Taylor, one of Bulgari’s most ardent patrons, on the set of the film Cleopatra wearing a Bulgari Serpenti secret watch with the dial concealed underneath a hinged cover on the head.
While Cleopatra may be one of the most famous fans of snake jewelry throughout history, another is Queen Victoria, who received a snake ring, symbolizing eternal love, as an engagement ring from Prince Albert, kicking off a Victorian trend in snake-themed adornments.
Serpents are one of jewelry’s most enduring and prolific motifs, dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Of all the famous jewelers who have produced snake jewelry, none have come to be identified with it as much as Bulgari.
“Bulgari is really the standard bearer of this motif at this point,” Everett says. “Because it’s such an enduring motif, it’s quite something that they really sort of own it the way that Cartier owns the panther. Many jewelers make snake pieces, but nobody does it as well as Bulgari.” Serpenti’s origins can be traced to the 1940s, when Bulgari introduced its flexible Tubogas bracelet that wrapped around the wrist, alluding to a snake, but without a head or tail.
Credit to: Laurie Kahle
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