Treasures of the deep: exploring jeweller Marina B’s rich design legacy

The first Marina B high jewellery collection
The first Marina B high jewellery collection, inspired by the sea urchin, uses blackened aluminium, moonstones, rose gold and diamonds.
(Image credit: Jiaxi & Zhe)

The recent tendency in fine jewellery design has been towards linear minimalism and spare, precious metals. But as the high street has cottoned on, so has the desire for something richer. It’s fitting, then, that the work of the woman who did much to define the opulent jewellery aesthetic of the 1980s is back in the frame.

Marina Bulgari, a scion of the eponymous Roman jewellery house and its one-time co-chief executive, left the family business in 1973 and set up Marina B in 1978. Drawing on her own glittering social network, Marina exhibited in exclusive hotels, from Gstaad to Monte Carlo, growing her elite but global fan base. She sold her business in 1999 and it changed hands a couple of times before her nephew, Giorgio Bulgari, took the helm in 2014. He has spent the past two years reviving the brand and Marina’s classic designs, defined by her signature unexpected colour clashes, elegant way with materials and innovative construction.

The Marina B high jewellery collection

Cuff, from the Marina B high jewellery collection

(Image credit: Jiaxi & Zhe)

Giorgio has now made his first foray into high jewellery with the launch of the unique Oursin (sea urchin) collection, which looks to pick up where Marina left off. ‘Her goal was finding the right proportions to achieve balance,’ says Giorgio. ‘She used springs in place of links in necklaces or bracelets, and devised ways to string pearls and coloured stones together without putting them on a traditional strand.’

She also chose to use blackened gold as a device to accent the diamonds, yellow gold and precious stones in her designs. With Oursin, Giorgio pays tribute by opting for a base metal of blackened aluminium.He has also used moonstones and diamonds in the distinct Marina B teardrop shape.

Taking up the baton and continuing the family tradition, Giorgio is exploring new themes and forms, gaining creative insight in the dazzling archive of more than 10,000 original drawings.Then there is Marina herself, now living in Monte Carlo. ‘We see each other often,’ says Giorgio. ‘We discuss what I am working on and she isn’t shy about saying what’s on her mind which is one of her many virtues and one of the reasons I am so fond of her.

As originally featured in the December 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*213)

For more information, visit the Marina B website

Caragh McKay is a contributing editor at Wallpaper* and was watches & jewellery director at the magazine between 2011 and 2019. Caragh’s current remit is cross-cultural and her recent stories include the curious tale of how Muhammad Ali met his poetic match in Robert Burns and how a Martin Scorsese Martin film revived a forgotten Osage art.