A Brief History of Bulgari’s Serpenti Motif and How It’s Become the Symbol of the Fine Jeweler

Bulgari’s Serpenti motif is one of the most recognizable symbols in the fine jewelry world, with the design reigning as a fixture of the Italian jeweler for more than 75 years.

The fine jeweler’s snake design debuted in 1948 and was famously inspired by Cleopatra’s serpentine jewelry. The motif first appeared on a bracelet-watch hybrid — now one of Bulgari’s most well-known designs — created in gold with a square head for the dial and the body wrapping around the wrist. 

Bulgari’s first Serpenti design was manufactured using the Tubogas gold coils method, which was inspired by coiled gas pipe. The technique married goldsmithing with the Serpenti motif to create a flexible design made without soldering the metal. 

“For [over] 75 years, Bulgari has shown its audacious creativity, ingenious craftsmanship and modern spirit through its emblematic Serpenti creations inspired by the jewels of Cleopatra, in a Rome of more than 2,000 years ago,” said Jean-Christophe Babin, chief executive officer of the Bulgari Group. “They convey endless tales, artistry and empowerment. It expanded the boundaries of jewelry, reflecting the spirit of confident women and entering the world of art through exciting creative collaborations. It was and is the ultimate Bulgari icon of endless metamorphosis.” 

After its debut in the 1940s, Bulgari continued modernizing and innovating its Serpenti motif. In the 1950s, Bulgari modernized its Serpenti style with adornments like rubies, emeralds and diamonds for the head of the serpent. 

The Bulgari Tadao Ando x Serpenti collection.

The Bulgari Tadao Ando x Serpenti collection.

Courtesy of Bulgari

This creativity continued into the 1960s when the Bulgari Serpenti became regarded as the symbol of the Italian jewelry brand. Bulgari began introducing the Serpenti in more jewelry collections and debuted new iterations of the Serpenti with the use of gemstones and colorful enamels adorned on the style’s scales. 

In the early 1960s, the Bulgari Serpenti was famously worn by actress Elizabeth Taylor, who bought a Serpenti watch in Rome while she was filming “Cleopatra.” 

Bulgari’s Serpenti still remains as popular today as it was in the 1900s. The Italian jeweler has consistently modernized and innovated the style through many collections, such as the 2010 Serpenti Tubogas collection, which gave a nod to the initial design, and the 2017 Twist Your Time collection, which introduced the Serpenti motif in a leather watch style. 

The jewelry style is also regularly seen on the red carpet among today’s biggest celebrities. Stars such as Anne Hathaway, Zendaya and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who are all Bulgari brand ambassadors, have made many recent red carpet appearances wearing high jewelry Serpenti pieces. 

Anne Hathaway in Bulgari  at the 30th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on February 24, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

Anne Hathaway in Bulgari at the 30th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on Feb. 24 in Los Angeles.

Gilbert Flores/Variety

Hathaway, for one, attended the SAG Awards in February wearing a high jewelry Bulgari Serpenti necklace in white gold with an array of various diamond cuts paired with high jewelry Bulgari Serpenti earrings featuring diamonds and emeralds. 

Zendaya has also worn many Bulgari Serpenti pieces for her memorable red carpet looks. In 2021, the actress attended the premiere of “Dune: Part One” pairing her custom Balmain gown with a Bulgari Serpenti high jewelry necklace that featured a roughly 94-carat emerald. 

Aside from its high jewelry pieces, Bulgari also utilizes the Serpenti motif for its everyday collections, offering the style in necklaces, watches, rings, earrings and bracelets made in 18-karat gold. 

With its creative styles and constant innovation, Bulgari’s Serpenti motif is sure to continue its reign as the jeweler’s most iconic style. 

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