Today, the reptile-like scales that will slide along the curvature of a Serpenti bracelet are being made, as eventually gold is poured into the spaces rendered by the molten wax. However, Cellini did not have the advantage of today’s goldsmiths: a computer screen not only showed the rate and level of the gold being cast, but also its temperature.
More and more rooms – worth three stories – are filled with giant industrial machines, some of which, Mr. Rapone said, “have been developed by us to make our products.” For example, a machine creates the U-shaped tube, sparkling with a diamond-engraved finish, for the house’s tubogas jewelry. “Before, everything was done manually,” said Mr. Rapone. (Tubogas, a traditional Italian style of jewelry, look a lot like a coiled tube and are sometimes referred to as “snake chain.”)
Bulgari hired engineers from Germany to Japan to program the machines to do their jobs.
The top floor is where all the pieces and pieces produced on the two lower floors are turned into complete jewelry. The pieces to assemble, like the golden Serpenti scales, arrive rather unceremoniously collected in plastic bags.
Some of the tools used by the 23 artisans date back to Cellini’s time: a bulino, or chisel, for engraving; a long wooden cabran for filing; a tenagliolo a collare, similar to a pair of pliers, to tighten the thread. These ancient tools stand alongside computer screens that relay all kinds of maps, messages and information (“We’re a paperless business,” Mr. Rapone said).
Bulgari’s unique jewelry will continue to be made in Rome; its accessories in Florence; its perfumes in Lodi, in the Italian Lombard region; silk in Como and watch mechanisms in Switzerland.
But Valenza will produce the main jewelry collections: Serpenti, Diva’s Dream, B.zero 1, Parentesi, MVSA, Monete, Save the Children and BVLGARI-BVLGARI. And all machines, Mr. Rapone said, will only help “workers to exactly replicate the art of designers.”