Backstory: Bulgari’s Serpenti Winds Its Way Through 75 Years Of History

Bulgari’s opulent house emblem has undergone a glorious metamorphosis through the years
Bulgari’s opulent house emblem, the Serpenti has undergone a glorious metamorphosis through the years
Bulgari Serpenti Viper necklace in rose gold with diamonds; Bulgari Serpenti Viper bangle and ring in rose gold

The snake motif has taken on many forms and meanings through history, representing values from rebirth and immortality to wisdom, and serving as a personification of deceit and evil through two millennia of Christian art and iconography. But at Bulgari, its symbolism is one of empowerment and creative transformation, and its expression a demonstration of the vision and prowess of the house.

Marking its 75th anniversary this year, the Bulgari serpent has underpinned a vast catalogue within the house, starting with the first Serpenti creation launched in 1948: a jewellery watch that wrapped helically around the wrist, and took the form of a serpent but rendered in a stylised manner. The supple tensile coil was crafted with the Tubogas technique, with individual links strung onto flexible metal strips for a
pliant, articulated form.

The next decade ushered in a more ornate and figurative interpretation of the Bulgari serpent, elaborately decorated with gemstones such as rubies, emeralds and diamonds for a life-like, spirited countenance. This segued into the 1960s, when a freer style of artistic expression and experimentation took hold, now with vibrant enamelling adding opulence and splendour. The first Serpenti secret jewellery watches, with dials tucked surreptitiously under the serpent’s head, appeared during this
time too.

Over the succeeding decades, the serpent motif’s style and execution expanded to make a repeating pattern of the hexagonal scales, as seen in pieces such as the Serpenti Seduttori watch, and to encompass jewellery, where the serpent is illustrated in the same breadth of aesthetics, from heritage to contemporary, like the graphic Serpenti Viper. From Bulgari watches and jewellery, the serpent symbol would wind its way into the realm of leather goods, where the serpent head adorns the clasps of shoulder bags and wallets, and its sinuous silhouette becomes the curved handles of small totes. Of course, Bulgari’s Serpenti creations have been associated with and seen on luminaries such as Elizabeth Taylor, Marisa Berenson, and house ambassadors such as Zendaya, Priyanka Chopra Jones, and Lisa from Blackpink.

Bulgari’s opulent house emblem, the Serpenti has undergone a glorious metamorphosis through the years
Bulgari Serpenti Tubogas double spiral watch 35mm in yellow gold with diamonds, Bulgari Seduttori watch 33mm in yellow gold and stainless steel with diamonds

To commemorate the Bulgari serpent emblem’s diamond anniversary, Bulgari launched the Serpenti Factory art initiative. The multi-city experience explores the Serpenti universe through collaborations with visionaries such as Refik Anadol, Davide Quayola, Daniel Rozin, Sougwen Chung and Cate M, who developed artwork based on their imagining of the serpent emblem and the emotions it inspires. After stops in Shanghai, New York City, Seoul and Milan, the experience heads to Tokyo and then Beijing, capping off a splendid yearlong salute to the audacious, innovative and timeless emblem.