Amanda Triossi remembers the day she got hooked on jewelry. When she was four, her mother brought home an Italian celebrity magazine with photos of the coronation of Iran’s Farah Diba, bedecked in a crown and necklace dripping with diamonds, emeralds and pearls. “For me,” she says, “that was fantastic. I’ve always had a passion since then.”
That passion eventually led the University of Cambridge grad to the jewelry department at Sotheby’s in the Eighties, where she authored three books on the subject—one on earrings, another on necklaces and a third, in 1996, on the history of Bulgari. Triossi left Sotheby’s the next year to develop Bulgari’s archive division from the ground up. “When I started doing research on the [Bulgari] book, there was no proper historical archive. I told them they really needed one, and it was a project I was keen to develop,” she recalls. “Gradually, we started buying back vintage pieces.”
Fast-forward to today, and to what is perhaps Triossi’s biggest undertaking yet: curating Bulgari’s premiere retrospective, which opens at Rome’s Palazzo delle Esposizioni on May 22. “Between History and Eternity: 1884–2009” is a landmark show—many of the pieces have never been displayed before—which celebrates a landmark year, Bulgari’s 125th anniversary. (The exhibit, which also includes seven new high jewelry works, will later travel to yet-to-be-determined cities.)
Seated at a long table in a fifth-floor conference room in the company’s headquarters in Rome, on Lungotevere Marzio, a stone’s throw from the Tiber, Triossi offers a sneak peek at the exhibit’s treasures, plucked from the house’s basement vault. There’s a gorgeous 18-karat gold necklace from the Sixties with flowerlike clusters of emeralds, rubies, sapphires and diamonds. Keira Knightley borrowed the piece for the 2006 Oscars; before that, it was owned by Princess Soraya of Iran. Triossi picks up an 18-karat gold and white enamel belt in the shape of a serpent, with tear-shaped sapphire eyes. “This belonged to Diana Vreeland,” she says as she tries to wrap the hinged snake around herself. “She must have had a very thin waistline, because I can’t wear it.” Other showstoppers include a colossal 25-carat diamond ring once owned by Anna Magnani, as well as a gold timepiece purchased by Benito Mussolini’s son-in-law (“Not the one who was bumped off,” notes Triossi).