Italian • 1930
The granddaughter of Sotirio Bulgari, the founder of Bulgari, and cousin to Gianni, Paolo and Nicola (and Lia), Marina Bulgari was born in 1930, to Costantino and his German-Italian wife, and grew up between Athens, Rome and Corfu. She worked in the family business, although as a woman, she was considered more suited to office work, and later on to organising the accounts department. In 1973, on the death of her father, she took his place within the company, but family differences led her to leave Bulgari completely in 1976. Gifted since childhood in both drawing and mathematics, she had been formulating her own design ideas, and now had the opportunity to bring them to life. In 1978 she launched her own collection and brand, initially under the name Crisart, changing it the following year to Marina B. Her first showroom was in Geneva, and from there she travelled, constantly, showcasing her jewellery in jet-set hot spots, Gstaad, St Moritz, Monte Carlo, later opening boutiques in the fashion capitals of the world.
Marina B’s distinctive designs have come to define 1980s style: strong, graphic, highly stylised, yet with a feminine voluptuousness, encapsulated in her early Ondas or wave design, and in her signature motif, described as a ‘chestnut’ shape, curvaceous, flirtatious, poised between a triangle and a pear-shape. The triangle, in various iterations, including triangular-cut diamonds, ran like a leitmotif through her work. A Bulgari to her core, she revelled in coloured gems, particularly fashionable cabochons, but she set them alongside new materials, including black gold, which became one of her most recognisable signatures. She was deeply concerned with the relationship between design and structure, devising a spring-mounting technique for her signature chokers; creating modular jewels, with interchangeable elements, for versatility; and finding innovative ways of connecting beads – she detested the banality of simply stringing beads or pearls. In her hugely successful Pneu earrings, first created in 1978, she transformed the hole at the centre of a bead, the bellybutton as she called it, into a decorative feature, adorning it with a cabochon stone. She used all elements of her powerful visual vocabulary to incorporate stylised references to exotic cultures, Chinese, Japanese, Persian and Byzantine, another link to the jet-set era. Even more, understanding and capturing the mood of the moment, she designed jewels for women to buy for themselves, to suit their clothes, lives and lifestyles. In 1993 she moved to Monaco and retired in 1996. Today, the company continues under the creative direction of Guy Bedarida, in the Marina B spirit.