Buccellati of Milan creates silver works for every taste

By Melody Amsel-Arieli

Buccellati of Milan, Italy is an exclusive family business established nearly a century ago. It is famed for its superb, textural gold jewelry. Yet its lustrous, internationally acclaimed, textured silver pieces are just as exquisite.

Buccellati Legacy of Artistic Excellence

Buccellati sterling swans

Pair of Buccellati sterling swan centerpieces, hand-chased details and glass eyes, Milan, Italy, post 1968; marked *26 MI.; each 10 inches by 12 inches by 8 inches; total weight 85.2 oz. Sold for $17,500 by Rago Arts.
(Courtesy of Rago Arts, www.ragoarts.com)

Their skilled silversmiths are based in workshops across Milan, Venice, and Florence. Typically they have completed apprenticeships that range from five to ten years. They begin each piece by heating, stretching, and shaping this malleable material. Then, with traditional tools and production methods, many of which date back to the Renaissance, they enhance the silver with raised repousse or low-chased designs in distinctive Buccellati craftsmanship and style. Since each piece is generally worked many times over with a variety of tools before desired effects are achieved, completion may take anywhere from a month to a year.

Many of Buccellati’s pieces are inspired by the company’s Italian heritage. Numerous small, richly appointed silver giftware items, created for home and office, for example, are inspired by local trees, leaves, fruit, and blooms of all kinds. Their dainty, silver place card holders replicate gardenias, clover, or other flowering blossoms, while the highly detailed, textured key holders resemble realistic pomegranates, strawberries, and walnuts.

Marries Styles and Sense

In contrast, the Buccellati Unica Collection evokes the richness and splendor of the Baroque Era by marrying sumptuous gem stones with contemporary Italian design. Examples include a sterling and malachite set of three, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil, hear-no-evil monkeys and a luxurious,

Renaissance-inspired vase bejeweled with a central, lapis lazuli cabochon.

Other Buccellati creations are sea-inspired as well. Their Murano Collection reflects the family’s continuing personal and cultural connection with the historic glassworks located on Murano, one of the Venetian islands. They have enhanced their delightful centerpieces, mustard jars, and jam jars — all aglow with pumpkin, apple, lemon, peach, or pear-toned glass, with silvery leaf-and-stem covers and serving spoons.

The company also produces richly engraved silver picture frames. These range from traditional to modern styles, and festive candlesticks ranging from classic to a heavily encrusted, sea-inspired “Seaweed and Anemone” design.

Silver Honors Regional Topography

Their tiny, ornately textured, bowl-and-handle, silver tea caddy spoons, which bear the names of

Silver flatware

Parma flatware service pieces, Buccellati, sold in 2008 for $540 including buyer’s premium. Courtesy Bonhams, www.bonhams.com

Italian isles, like Ponza, Capri, and Ischia, all located off Naples, also reflect a marine influence.

Currently, this collection also features centerpiece baskets of lustrous “fruit of the sea,” as well as dramatic silvery seashells. Some of these, like finely ribbed “Tridacna” (saltwater clam), are fashioned entirely of sterling silver. Others, including the coarsely knobbed “Bursa Bobo” and ruggedly whorled “Murex Ramosus” (both sea snails) centerpieces, are actually natural seashells exquisitely coated in silver.

The Buccellati Caviar Collection also evokes sea life. The line includes opulent beakers, bowls, goblets, and champagne buckets. They all feature rims, rings, and handles reflective of a motif popular in the 1930s. They are also fashioned from delicate, caviar-like, silver beads. Like all Buccellatis, each piece — chiseled, engraved and hammered by hand — is exceptional.

Masters of Hand-Crafting

Buccellati silversmiths also create exquisite, hand crafted, perfectly balanced sterling silver flatware sets in timeless patterns that range from classic to contemporary, from simple to sumptuous. Even a single table setting, depending on its pattern, detail, weight, and composition, however, may be quite costly.

In addition, Buccellati’s “Furry” Collection offers a menagerie of whimsical, amazingly lifelike, textured animal sculptures created through innovative silver techniques. Its strutting kiwis, ostriches, and cocks, for example, boast continuous, overlapping, chased “feathers.” Its charming squirrels, rabbits, and bears bear silver “fur.”

Though no prices appear online at www.buccellati.com, the company responds to requests for detail in a timely fashion through its “Ask Us” link. If pieces are temporarily out of stock, orders are taken. Moreover, the company accepts custom orders. These, however, may not only be more expensive, but also take quite some time to complete.

Buccellati Market Obtainable and Active

Buccellati vase

‘Etruscan’ vase with hammered surface. Flaring, ovoid body, height 8 1/2 inches, length over handles 12 1/2 inches. Weight about 70 troy oz., Mario Buccellati, Milan, second half 20th century. Sold for $8,750 including buyer’s premium in 2015. (Courtesy Bonhams, www.bonhams.com)

According to Thierry de Lachaise, Senior Director of the Silver Department at Sotheby’s, all types of Buccellati silver reach the secondary market. Most are sourced from estate sales or private collections. Small giftware items, like individual serving dishes, salt dishes, wine labels, Christmas tree ornaments, place card holders, key holders, decorative spoons, bookmarks, and letter openers, currently command under $1,000 apiece.

Buccellati water pitchers, vases, coffee services, and other hollowware pieces appearing on the secondary market may be available for under $10,000 each. Massive, solid silver lidded soup tureens, stunning cabbage centerpieces, and ornate candlesticks, however, may be considerably costlier.

In 2015, for instance, Sotheby’s auctioned a massive fluted Buccellati silver bowl, featuring fully modeled seahorses along its base, for $62,500. In 2017, a marine-theme centerpiece, featuring fully modeled fish, shells, crustaceans, and octopi, brought $200,000.

“Because impressive pieces like these are rarely available in Buccellati boutiques nowadays,” de Lachaise explains, “their secondary market prices often rise with time.”

Decorative Art to Flatware

On the other hand, notes Karen Rigdon, Director of Fine Silver, Decorative Arts & Design at Heritage Actions, “prices for larger creatures from Buccellati’s Furry Collection, though difficult to find in their boutiques these days, have recently plummeted.”

Complete and partial Buccellati flatware sets, which also frequently appear at auction, command prices commensurate with their design, weight, craftsmanship, composition, and condition. From time to time, single, specialized pieces, like ice tongs, berry spoons, carving forks, punch ladles, or pie servers appear as well. These currently market for $100 to $2,500 apiece.

Rare, intriguing Buccellati creations sometimes turn up at auction as well. The company’s interpretation of a Nautilus Shell Spoon Warmer, for example, evokes Victorian charm. When brimming with heated water, it kept silver serving pieces piping hot. Their richly textured armadillo table lighter has enhanced many a festive occasion. Meanwhile, their spiny, lifelike lobster centerpiece, has enlivened many a dinner conversation.

Spot Buccellati Treaures on Secondary Market

Buccellati pieces at auction may be less costly than those purchased through their prestigious boutique stores or private retailers. Yet all silver items that reach the secondary market, especially those that have enjoyed long use, may exhibit dents, light nicks, light surface scratching, and scuffing commensurate with polishing and age. 

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