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  • Writer's pictureValerieBound

The Best American Jewelry is ….. Italian?!

It seems strange, I know! But our iconic stars and stripes, our great red, white, and blue look absolutely AMAZING in the hands of an iconic Italian jewelry designer. Happy 4th of July, gem gals!!! You know I like to celebrate some uniquely American aspect of jewelry every July, and this year is no exception.

Now typically, when people think of American jewelry that’s patriotic, flag pins are probably what come to mind. Something your grandma has in her jewelry box somewhere. Or maybe something with an eagle on it. Plenty of American jewelry has flags or eagles to showcase patriotism.

Your standard parade-viewing flag pin

Bulgari comes to America

But the best American jewelry of all is when Italian jeweler Bulgari created the Stars & Stripes collection. It was back in 1972, and they wanted to do something big because they had just opened their New York City store. Lead designer Nicola Bulgari was an avid coin collector and history buff. She wanted to use coins and the flag motif to create something bold and unusual. Since it was 1972, they got Cher to model some of the pieces they created in Vogue magazine.

Cher models Bulgari’s Stars & Stripes collection, 1972 – check out that necklace and earrings!

Instead of using rubies, rhinestones, and sapphires to show off the red, white, and blue, Bulgari changed things up a bit by using coral, diamonds, and lapis lazuli. The pieces were such a hit that Bulgari continued to make their American themed jewelry well into the 1980’s.

Bulgari Stars & Stripes Bracelet
Bulgari Stars & Stripes Bracelet

Bulgari necklace General Lafayette
Bulgari necklace, front - General Lafayette, back “the defender of American and French Liberty." Eagle and fleur-de-lis.

Nancy Reagan wears Bulgari

The jewelry was so popular that even the First Lady, Nancy Reagan, got in on the action. She owned a stunning ring by Bulgari. She wore it publicly on the Fourth of July in 1986 when she was standing for the National Anthem on the USS Iowa in New York Harbor.  This ring was probably made by special request.

I’m personally in love with this ring! And it turns out I’m not the only one. When the Reagan estate items were auctioned off in 2016, the estimate for this ring was $8,000. Shocking everyone, it sold for over $300,000! Wow!

Nancy Reagan’s Bulgari flag ring
Nancy Reagan’s Bulgari flag ring

Katy Perry loves Bulgari too

I know what you’re thinking, all that was ancient history. But this jewelry just keeps popping up! At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Katy Perry performed wearing a great Bulgari necklace featuring red and blue enamel (side note: love her stars and stripes microphone!). And she found the necklace on instagram! It turns out a Bulgari collector posted it, she noticed, and asked to wear it. Pretty cool to think scrolling through your social media can pay off big like that!

Katy Perry wearing a Bulgari necklace
Katy Perry wearing a Bulgari necklace (image courtesy of Getty Images)

Bulgari loves New York City

And just a couple years ago, Bulgari came out with a new collection to honor New York City, their home for several decades. Now, technically, it’s not their Stars & Stripes collection. But it’s looks pretty patriotic to me!

Bulgari shows their love for New York City

New and old Bulgari pieces

Bulgari Today

Today, finding these treasured pieces is like a special scavenger hunt. People love them, and will pay big money for them! Bulgari, to their credit, has been very deliberate about their designs. They said they hoped one of these pieces would end up in the Smithsonian one day, which I thought was very sweet.

A Bulgari ad for the Stars & Stripes collection from the 1970’s

What do your think about this jewelry? Let me know in the comments.

This post has been updated and edited since it was originally published July 4, 2019.


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