Luca Buccellati speaks on craftsmanship and heritage

In Macau for the grand opening of Buccellati’s new MGM Macau boutique, Luca Buccellati talks to Stephenie Gee about craftsmanship, heritage and choosing quality over quantity

An artisan at work at the Timeless Beauty with Century- Old Craftsmanship exhibition.

In a time when trends are at their trendiest, fine- jewellery brands have been working to modernise their offerings for the younger generation of consumers. So much so that it’s easy to begin to lose track of where exactly a piece came from. Unless, that is, you’re looking at Buccellati.

Few jewels are more quintessentially Italian than those from the Milanese family-run maison, whose hand-crafted gold and silver treasures have, since its founding in 1919 by Mario Buccellati (the “Prince of Goldsmiths” as his dear friend the poet Gabriele D’Annuzio dubbed him), drawn upon five centuries of Italian art as inspiration, from Venetian lace to Etruscan patterns to Italian flora and fauna. The look is distinctive, with rich textural qualities reminiscent of fine fabrics like silk, tulle, linen and damask thanks to a combination of laborious engraving techniques, among them rigato, telato and ornato, dating back to the Renaissance.

Luca Buccellati (left) with Pansy Ho and Andrea Buccellati.

“We always look back. We never forget where we come from even though we’re looking at the future, because where we come from is so important,” says Luca Buccellati, a fourth-generation Buccellatti and the special sales and VIP client director. “That is what makes us totally different. There are a lot of big brands now that make everything with the help of machines, so it’s fast. But we still make each piece by hand and we have our own style. You can recognise a piece of our jewellery from a mile away. You might not necessarily be able to do that if you mixed pieces of jewellery from all the other brands together. That’s the power of Buccellati.”

It’s the touch of the hand that sets Buccellati apart from other brands on the market, so the family has invested in its own school, the Renaissance Academy, to preserve and nurture artisanal talent. “It was important because we’re trying to recruit people in order to have new artisans, new engravers especially. But it’s so difficult because the young generation want this,” he says, rubbing his fingers together. “Money. So, we thought, ‘Why don’t we pay them to train with us and maybe, they will fall in love with our job?’ You never know. Let’s say we have 20 people, after six months of training with our experienced artisans we will only have two that will go, ‘I’m going to continue. I love it.’ The rest, they get their money and leave. Still, we continue to do this because otherwise we will never grow in terms of production because everything is handmade with us so it takes time.”

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A house can’t just live in the past, it also must look to the future. How does Buccellati translate heritage into the modern world?

A good question. It’s difficult. I always feel an overwhelming emotion of joy when seeing our jewellery, and I want to evoke and share that same joy and passion with every one of my staff through training. Usually, when a new [employee] joins the company, I conduct all the training. By joining me in Milan for a couple of days, I share our core values and show them around the workshops to see how our jewellery is crafted.

Buccellati’s Macri collection.

I believe that if the staff realise what values we are working towards, they will be able to help Buccellati work towards a better future, as employees are the future of the company.

You’re here in Macau for the opening of Buccellati’s second store in the city. What is the next step for the brand in the region?

We now have eight stores in China and we have plans to open another two in 2024. And then we’re going to stop for a while because otherwise we will have too many stores but not enough stock. I have people now waiting for a year, a year and half for a piece of our jewellery because it’s all handmade. We need to make our customers happy and we treat them all the same, no matter what. It’s the same for me whether you come into the store and spend $3,000 or $3 million. I will treat you like a king or queen.

Alongside the new store opening there’s also the Timeless Beauty with Century-Old Craftsmanship exhibition. Could you tell us more about that?

The exhibition was created in collaboration with MGM Macau and it’s about craftsmanship. It’s not commercial; you can’t buy anything here. We just want to showcase what drives our brand. We even brought one of our engravers, Christina, over so visitors can observe how they work. We’re not looking for potential customers. We’re just looking for people that understand the craftsmanship of Buccellati.

Lion pieces created exclusively for MGM by Buccellati.

What do you look for in a Buccellati artisan?

You must be an artist. Whether you are talented in painting or crafting, you must possess the ability to use your hands to create because no mistakes are allowed at Buccellati. Even an engraver during the training period is only allowed to work with copper. They don’t have the right to use gold. They also must be passionate and love the job.

How many artisans do you have currently?

Now we have about 180 to 200 artisans and when we reach 500, we can open more stores. But not just any 500; 500 who know how to make jewellery. It’s all about the quality for us. We never care about the quantity.

And how long do you think it’ll take to get to 500?

I’ll be honest with you – five years.

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