By Maria Doulton in London
The name Giampiero Bodino may be new to some, but he is in fact immensely influential in the world of luxury. Until now, Bodino has been quietly working behind the scenes, at the begining of his career, in the 1980s, with Gianni Bulgari, then as a freelancer and, since 2002, as art director of the Richemont Group. As a consequence, this former student of architecture and car designer, originally from Turin, has shaped the look of watches and jewellery of our times.
So it is fitting that this creative mastermind should eventually come out of the shadows and focus his talent on creating high jewels that bear his name. And that is exactly what happened when, two years ago, Johann Rupert, Chairman of the Richemont Group, persuaded him to take up the challenge.
The result is a brand-new high jewellery Maison that does things differently. There are no shops. The only way to see Giampiero Bodino's jewels is to come here, to this leafy corner in Milan and sit down with him to discover his jewels.
The Maison is housed in the 1930s Villa Mozart in Milan, behind wrought iron gates and through a garden where birds sing. A simple brass plaque, surrounded by ivy and engraved with the words Giampiero Bodino, is the only indication you have come to the newest home of high jewellery.
Villa Mozart was once a private residence, created for a wealthy Milanese family by rationalist architects Aldo Andreani and Piero Portaluppi. With its marble floors and columns and chandeliers interspersed with views of sun-dappled lawns, the villa is impressive but not imposing. Mr Bodino, an artist, has also painted the large monochrome canvases that hang on the walls of Villa Mozart.
Bodino wants to bring back the personal element to jewellery, much as it used to be in the days when you went to visit your jeweller at his Maison and, over coffee and cakes, together decided what jewels were right for you. "When I see a woman coming into the Villa Mozart, I can immediately imagine what jewels would suit her," he explains of the relationship he has with his clients, who are encouraged to feel at home and relax into the experience.
"I think you should wear jewels in a more modern way. You can wear them with an haute couture dress but at the same time I have nothing against the idea of wearing an absolutely amazing jewel with a white t-shirt. I think it's very simpatico."
Each piece is one-of-a-kind and, should you not find exactly what you are after, the Maison are happy to work together on a bespoke commission. The jewels are made in the finest high jewellery workshops and reflect the spirit of the Maison embodied in the idea of 'capo d'opera' or the masterpiece an apprentice created at the end of his training.
The first 64 pieces on show are all inspired by Bodino's love of Italy, his birthplace and home. He says his aim is to "create contemporary and artistic high jewellery with a spirited Italian heart". The Italy evoked in the nine themes, with names such as Cammeo, Corona, Barocco, Mosaico and Tesori del Mare, is that of the splendour of the Grand Tours of the 19th century.
And the result is breathtaking. Colours sing out as the past and the present come together with new vigour in these jewels that, despite their high value, are so very wearable. Take the Paolina necklace from the Cammeo theme. At first glance it is a classical tiered choker of pearls with cameos. But look again at the sizeable diamonds dotted randomly amongst ropes of different-sized pearls and the bright splashes of rubellite and pink tourmaline beads and you see 19th century cameos in a very new light.
In the Rosa dei Venti choker, thick swags of diamond-encrusted chain secure richly coloured precious gems around the neck. The opulence of the materials, the wind rose motifs and the symbols bring to mind treasures discovered by great explorers, yet at the same time the jewels are strikingly modern.
The Mosaic cuffs feature bold, rhythmic patterns inspired by Italian mosaics, interpreted in very contemporary colour combinations. The electric green of zesty chrysoprase shines out against a backdrop of velvety violet sapphires, and cool pink opal is combined with shocking pink sapphires for an arresting effect.
And the story has barely begun as new pieces still in the workshops are yet to be unveiled at the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris in September. This is when Giampiero Bodino will be making his grand entrance amongst some of the most notable names in jewellery, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Bulgari, all of which, at different stages, have benefitted from Bodino's design talent.
His study is just off the living room. On his desk are watercolours and paintbrushes as he is halfway through an exquisitely detailed painting of a new jewel. Behind his desk is his collection of dozens of neatly lined up plastic figurines, from the Pokémon monsters beloved of primary school boys to Transformers robots. They stand to mute attention in perfect harmony with the Art Deco desk and the ornate painted-wood ceiling: a fitting analogy of Bodino's ability to combine the old with the new in surprising ways.
Read more about Maison Giampiero Bodino