Rare Antique and Estate Jewelry & Fine Collections of Precious Gems
May 10, 2017
Coins were, arguably, the original jewelry. To be in possession of such a valuable commodity was to demonstrate status and, obviously, wealth. It was probably a natural progression that coins would eventually be used in jewelry design, with the first such pieces believed to have originated in ancient Roman times, although coins as currency had already been around for several centuries before that.
The trend - if it can be called that - for coin jewelry has been in and out over the intervening 2000 years or so, but it had a resurgence in the 1950s and has remained popular among collectors and jewelry enthusiasts ever since.
A very large part of the reason for the current popularity of coin jewelry is as a result of several collections produced by legendary Italian jewelers Bulgari. Among the largest and most renowned houses, Bulgari are the only one producing coin jewelry with any regularity, and so dominate the genre.
When Bulgari released their first range of coin jewelry in the 1950s, it wasn’t without reservations. Because the company wanted to use only the finest ancient coins in the designs, the original range, under the Monete name, was produced using coins from the Bulgari’s own collection. As a result, the company spent some time sourcing and buying the finest coins they could find. This delayed the release of the Monete range significantly but, when eventually it became available to the public, it was an instant success and led to the reputation of the company increasing dramatically.
Although, clearly, the coin or coins will be at the heart of any piece produced, other precious metals or gemstones are often added to enhance the overall appearance. The coin, itself, is always set inside a ring made of yellow or pink gold, and great effort is made to ensure the setting has no rough edges or protrusions. Bulgari also insisted from the outset that all coins used should be blemish free and in overall excellent condition, despite their age. No replica coins are ever used by Bulgari, to preserve the value and integrity of the line. In addition, if multiple coins are used in the same piece, they will be chosen from the same era and civilization.
The Monete range of coin jewelry was expanded and updated in the 1960s and again in the 1970s, but a recent update was the first since then. The latest update has taken the collection back to the bare bones of coin jewelry by limiting it to bracelets and necklaces, but this hasn’t stopped Bulgari from producing other coin jewelry outside the Monete range.
As well as expanding the jewelry in the wider Bulgari catalog to include more modern items such as cufflinks, the basic principles of using only the finest ancient coins has persisted. Coins are also now used to identify the Bulgari coin range in handbags and jewelry outside the original confines of the collection, and also produce leather and gold necklaces intended for both men and women.
Each coin is painstakingly set by hand, and all finished pieces are subject to a rigorous inspection process to make sure that they are of the required quality both in terms of the materials used and the craftsmanship. If they do not pass this test, the piece is dismantled and all parts are recycled.
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