The millionaire jewels of Bulgari Aeterna

Collectors flock to the Terme di Diocleziano in Rome to seek out high jewellery and watches that celebrate 140 years of the Roman jeweller.   

Serpenti Aeterna diamond necklace by Bulgari on model

The Eternal City of Rome has fallen plague to fleets of blacked-out cars this past week, zipping between chic hotels and one of the city’s most treasured monuments, the Terme di Diocleziano. The reason for this hive of activity? Bulgari Aeterna

The Italian jeweller took over the ancient Roman baths, which first opened to the public in 306, to showcase its latest high jewellery and watch offering, Aeterna. The collection, released in the brand’s 140th anniversary year, is a love letter to its city of origin. The diverse jewels are united by classic Bulgari design codes that pick up the history of Rome; from the shapes of the tiles decorating its monuments, to the emperors that ruled it, and the dawn light that seeps in each day to bathe its streets.   

Bulgari showcased its latest Aeterna high jewellery and watch collection at the historic Roman baths, open to the public since 306.

Aeterna is also Bulgari’s most lavish high jewellery collection to date. The brand’s high-roller clients have been largely protected from the financial instability that has rocked the rest of the world, its chief executive Jean-Christophe Babin says, while fanning out gouache illustrations of some of the star lots in his makeshift office in the Terme di Diocleziano. “Hence, we are not afraid to propose more millionaire pieces than we ever did,” he says. Babin estimates that about 100 of the jewels locked behind glass in the adjacent hall (once a grand entrance to welcome 3,000 Roman bathers at a time) have a price tag in excess of €1 million.

The star of these millionaire jewels is the Serpenti Aeterna diamond necklace, which is in fact priced at €40 million. It features seven pear-shaped diamonds that total 140 carats to mark 140 years of Bulgari, held by a serpentine swathe of baguette-cut diamonds. All of the seven diamonds were cut from a single rough stone of more than 200 carats, which was sourced in the Kingdom of Lesotho. 

Serpenti Aeterna Necklace by Bulgari
The highlight of Bulgari's 140th-anniversary collection is the Serpenti Aeterna diamond necklace, valued at €40 million, featuring seven pear-shaped diamonds totalling 140 carats and a serpentine design of baguette-cut diamonds.

The celebratory carat weight was carefully considered. Babin later that evening regaled guests at the Aeterna catwalk and gala dinner – which included Bulgari ambassadors Anne Hathaway and Priyanka Chopra – with a tale of how the rough could have yielded a further 10 carats, but he chose not to use them, so as to achieve the symbolic number. Of course, it is likely those 10 carats will simply pop up in another Bulgari creation.

The Serpenti Aeterna necklace was unusual for Bulgari in that it celebrated colourless diamonds. The house is very much revered for its bold use of coloured gemstones, and the rest of the collection stayed true to that DNA. 

The Terra Mater Serpenti necklace – modelled by Zendaya in campaign shots that lit up the city over the 10-day high jewellery event – coiled a diamond and emerald snake around an enormous cabochon emerald. 

Terra Mater Serpenti necklace by Bulgari
The Terra Mater Serpenti necklace by Bulgari features a diamond and emerald snake coiled around a large cabochon emerald.

The Bvlgari Lotus Cabochon necklace was a bib of turquoise, emerald, rubellite, and amethyst cabochons, secured in the maison’s tappetino setting style that makes the stones appear pebble like.

High jewellery watches were also a keen focus within Aeterna. These ranged from simple dials secreted within Serpenti mouths, to elaborate timepieces that were more jewel than watch. 

The Fuochi D’Artificio cuff watch recreated fireworks in the night sky with an explosion of precious and semi-precious gems atop black onyx. Its smaller Fuochi D’Artificio Petite sister created the night sky with aventurine inserts. 

The Fenice watch, which took craftsmen more than 3,000 hours to complete, used pink and purple sapphires, amethysts, rubies, pink garnets, tanzanites, iolites, aquamarines, and diamonds to create a phoenix inspired by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s altarpiece in the Roman church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. A tiny dial, fitted with Bulgari’s miniscule Piccolissimo movement, is hidden beneath a hinged 9.78-carat Paraiba tourmaline. 

Fenice secret watch by Bulgari
The Fenice secret watch by Bulgari, crafted in over 3,000 hours, showcases a phoenix design with various gemstones and a tiny dial hidden under a 9.78-carat Paraiba tourmaline.

“We love to own this field,” says Antoine Pin, managing director of Bulgari’s watch division of the elaborate high jewellery watches. “There are a handful of brands that can do it, but very few dare to go that far.”

Bulgari is not a brand that could ever be accused of failing to be daring, and it would seem that in its 140thyear – marked by its most lavish collection in history – the bold spirit of Rome’s foremost jeweller is as eternal as the city it calls home.  


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