How a ring modelled after Rome’s Colosseum came so far in such a short time
Despite its patriotic leanings, Bulgari’s B.Zero1 collection has had enduring international appeal, with over two million rings alone sold since its inception in 1999. Now, 20 years on, the collection is showing no signs of slowing down.
You’d be hard pressed to find a jewellery house more proud of its origins than Bulgari. The Serpenti is drawn from the serpent of Roman mythology, the Bulgari Bulgari and Monete collections were inspired by ancient Roman coins, and the four-petal flower motif of the Fiorever line is supposed to be a Roman symbol for happiness and joy. Bulgari is Roman and it will make darn sure you know it.
But for all its sometimes esoteric references – not everyone is going to make the connection between the Parentesi’s interlocking designs and Rome’s stone pavements – the B.Zero1 is arguably the most emblematic, having been inspired by the imposing shapes of the historic Colosseum. It has become an icon in the jewellery world and it’s only 20 years old.
Because in spite of the patriotism, Bulgari’s designs tend to have enduring international appeal. Over two million B.Zero1 rings have been sold since its inception, and that’s not even counting the pendants, bracelets and earrings that followed after the ring’s launch in 1999.
The broad central band, comprising anything from one to five bands and sandwiched by two flat rings engraved with the brand’s double logo, was created using the Tubogas technique, a method of creating flexible bands without soldering that Bulgari popularised with its Serpenti watches and bracelets. They’re stackable, comfortable, and not overtly feminine or masculine. This was jewellery for the new age.
The “B” in the ring’s painfully neoteric name clearly refers to the brand, but the “Zero1” marks the ring as the brand’s first jewel of the second millennium, a signifier of infinite beginnings. The number of times the design has been reinterpreted proves the dubbing prophetic. What started as a bold, five-band beast in solid yellow and white gold has seen transformations that have explored more elegant dimensions and curious materials.
In 2012, marble in hues of green, brown and blue found their way into the B.zero1’s central bands. Two years later, a dreamy bronze ceramic was chosen to complement the new pink gold models. Diamonds paved the edges of the 2015 collections, followed later by the whimsical B.Zero1 Perfect Mistake, so named for its start as a prototype that was canned in 1999 but revisited in 2016 in its full three-toned glory.
Design titans took notice, too. To celebrate the brand’s decennial in 2009, Bulgari collaborated with British sculptor Anish Kapoor to design a commemorative model. Forgoing the signature central strips, Kapoor’s rendering melts all that steel into a a single, shiny layer, rimming it with rose gold.
At the launch of the Serpenti Installation at the Bulgari Hotel in Milan in 2015, Zaha Hadid and Bulgari CEO Jean Christophe Babin had a little chat. Since the original B.Zero1 was inspired by an architectural wonder, it made sense for an architect of Hadid’s renown to design the ring’s next interpretation. Hadid, who passed away in 2016, may not have lived to see her design in the metal when it was unveiled in 2017, but the Pritzker Prize-winning “Queen of the Curve” made her mark with wave-like bands that create the illusion of fluidity.
Even Bulgari’s legion of celebrity fans and ambassadors, who can afford to be draped in the brand’s icier creations, welcome the B.Zero1’s relative simplicity. Ever since Bulgari partnered with the Save the Children foundation in 2010, dozens of stars, including Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Sting, Jessica Biel and many more were featured in photographer Fabrizio Ferri’s campaign for the Save the Children edition of the B.Zero1 jewellery collection, where proceeds from sales went to the non-profit organisation.
There’s just as much to look forward to in the present. The 20th anniversary of the B.Zero1 comes with more than 15 designs to suit every imaginable preference. The original 5-band rings are back with a brand new rose gold version in tow, the bracelets have been made lighter and thinner to encourage stacking, and Zaha Hadid’s design is now updated with ceramic inserts. What all of them have in common is an engraving of the words “XX Anniversary”.
The B.Zero1’s aesthetic is shaped by its native Roma just as much as its commitment to craftsmanship and designs that last – minimalistic or otherwise. But the collection’s accessibility gives it a wide-reaching allure and we will no doubt see another 20 year’s worth of new beginnings.