Fine jewelry is not immune to trends, despite its relative imperviousness to fads when compared to fashion. Fine jewels boast epochal details, whether it be particular design codes, cult materials or ephemeral artisanal techniques. Studying some of the greatest portraits of high society of the past few centuries, it is possible to play a rather entertaining game of ‘follow the diamond’ as exceptional gemstones pass between generations, between lovers and archenemies alike, each time reset and reinvented within different jewels that reflect their zeitgeist. These changes were often influenced by clothing itself – for example, as necklines rose or dipped, necklaces would shorten or extend; earrings were influenced by à la mode hairstyles, and brooches moved around the bodice as waistlines cinched or fell loose. Today is no different. As our wardrobes veer ever towards more casual styling, our jewelry is adapting and embracing a new mood – and embracing the spirit of sprezzatura.
“Sprezzatura is hard to define and, by its very definition, should be difficult to spot,” begins Carolina Bucci, the Italian designer who has made effortlessly glamorous fine jewels her signature and launched multiple collections that embody this multifaceted stylistic movement. But what are sprezzatura’s roots? The word first appeared in 1528, in Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, where it was defined by the author as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it”. Like so many other Italian words, sprezzatura has a remarkable onomatopoeic quality to it, rolling off the tongue with leisurely pizazz. In practical terms, of course, sprezzatura-inspired jewels showcase remarkable craftsmanship and ingenuity, all cleverly disguised in laid-back, easygoing, wear-me-anywhere designs.
A lot of the spirit of sprezzatura in jewelry is in creating unexpected combinations and textures – just as an artist strives for years in the studio, waiting for some kind of ‘happy accident’ on the canvas”
Once you truly understand its spirit, this ideology is easier to spot. It’s a David Yurman gold bracelet with deceptively complex links worn with a T-shirt and denim jacket, or a Mizuki pearl delicately strung onto a leather cord peeping from under the sleeve of a sweater. It’s the interlocking mixed-metal bands of Spinelli Kilcollin’s ring stacks, or the CVC Stones pebble pendant that scintillates with perfectly placed diamonds, hung from a gold chain that took founder Charles de Viel Castel months to source. These jewels embody a feigned, “What, this old thing?” mentality while evoking envy in others – much like a swan furiously paddling beneath its serenely gliding silhouette. Or, in beauty terms, #IWokeUpLikeThis.
“Creating fine jewelry that feels relaxed and somehow off the cuff is a very difficult thing to do,” says Bucci. “When you are working with gold and precious stones, there is an inherent effort at every stage… in design, in prototyping and in craftsmanship. A lot of the spirit of sprezzatura in jewelry is in creating unexpected combinations and textures – just as an artist strives for years in the studio, waiting for some kind of ‘happy accident’ on the canvas,” she explains. Bucci’s brand mantra – ‘meticulously crafted, effortlessly worn’ – comes to the fore in one of her most recent collections, KISS (Keep It Super Simple). Featuring gently elasticated gold bangles inspired by the complicated and finely balanced springs of a Swiss watch, these pieces can be stretched over the hand in a second like a ’90s jelly band. It took Bucci years to develop the design, but their impact on an outfit is effortless and instantaneous.
Buccellati, another Italian powerhouse brand renowned for its exceptionally intricate metalwork, is similarly skilled in making the impossible seem easy. “All our jewels, from the simplest to the one-of-a-kind, are to be worn with extreme spontaneity to evoke a natural sense of ease,” explains creative director Andrea Buccellati. The maison’s remarkable ability to spin gold into tulle and honeycomb textures requires great care and meticulous skill that takes months – sometimes even years – to learn. The result? Each jewel is light enough to feel like a second skin; utterly insouciant.
Similarly, Moritz Glik’s shaker jewels, with their frivolous and fun sprinkle effect, require painstaking precision to craft. Each stone must be measured to the millimeter, cleaned and placed inside the white sapphire casing. Once the shaker is set and closed, there is no going back. “This is not something that I consciously think about when designing new creations, but I guess that’s part of the actual concept of sprezzatura, isn’t it?” muses Glik. Elsewhere, Lauren Rubinski’s hollow gold chains are equally deceptive in their simplicity. Rubinski’s designs look like they could feel heavy and cumbersome but are, in fact, feather-light – and it’s this pleasantly surprising duplicity that lies at the very heart of sprezzatura.
It does, however, also require confident, spontaneous styling to render it ‘cool’ rather than ‘too casual to be chic’. “When I first moved to New York from Florence at 18, I was constantly amazed at the cool women who would go shopping in the local deli in their pajamas and a long coat,” says Bucci. “For me, that was confidence rather than laziness, and [signaled] a lack of formality that I had never seen in Italy at that time. That difference – confidence rather than a lack of effort – is what makes casual dressing successful or not.” It seems that when attempting to exude this shrewd nonchalance, concealing any overthinking is imperative. “Sprezzatura is an art, which does not seem to be an art,” wrote Castiglione. “Obvious effort is the antithesis of grace.”
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