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The Art Mind Behind Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Piage

Articles

The Art Mind Behind Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Piage

J.H. White

If the popular Italian proverb “A ogni uccello il suo nido è bello” — To every bird, his nest is beautiful — could incarnate into a person, there’s no one more fitting than the master high jewellery designer Giampiero Bodino. A Renaissance man in every sense of the word, his home reaches farther than most — it’s his homeland, his heritage. 

A portrait of Bodino in his studio inside the Villa Mozart. Photo by Pierpaolo Ferrari

Bodino’s beautiful sketches of the Rosa dei Venti bracelet and ring. Photo courtesy of Giampiero Bodino

Bodino’s beautiful sketches of the Rosa dei Venti bracelet and ring. Photo courtesy of Giampiero Bodino

Bodino’s sketch of the Rosa dei Venti Choker — Maison Giampiero Bodino’s first piece. Photo courtesy of Giampiero Bodino

Bodino’s sketch of the Rosa dei Venti Choker — Maison Giampiero Bodino’s first piece. Photo courtesy of Giampiero Bodino

As art director for the Richemont group since 2002, Bodino oversees all high jewellery crafted from its luxury brands — Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Piaget to name a few — a ghost designer, silently shaping the world of luxury. As a virtuoso dedicated to his craft, fame was never the brass ring. “I am challenged by excellence and quality; that’s what I expect of my jewellery,” he says. His artistic fervor, however, began long before he would bedazzle the world with his gems. 

“I am completely and always in love with Italy,” says Bodino. “Its art and culture are to me an endless source of inspiration.” 

With Italy’s rich classical culture — Gothic cathedrals summoning believers to their knees, stained-glass scenes reflecting lessons of morality, perfectly painted ceilings that could just as well be windows to Heaven — one can see how Italy’s influences reach deeper than the surface aesthetic.

The Corona Necklace sparkles with diamonds and white gold. Photo by Laziz Hamani

The Corona Necklace sparkles with diamonds and white gold. Photo by Laziz Hamani

Red spinel, emerald, sapphire, amethyst and diamond harmonize in the Rosa dei Venti choker. Photo courtesy of Giampiero Bodino

“I pay attention to what surrounds me, and try to record it. At some point, it does become part of my DNA, and that’s when it becomes part of me, and I am able to use it and reference it in my creations.”

Bodino grew up surrounded by pencils, markers, paints and brushes — tools for his two loves of sketching and painting. His passion and talent for art led him to car-design school, a natural choice for a native of Turin, the car capital of Italy. While still in school, Bodino was given the rare opportunity to work with Giorgetto Giugiaro, the man named Car Designer of the Century.
“This experience was seminal, as I learned the importance of tridimensionality — any item you are designing can be seen from different perspectives,” Bodino says. “I learned the importance of shapes, volumes and depth,” fundamentals he’d need in order to sparkle outside the supercar sector.

His career shifted into high gear in the 1980s, when renowned jewellery designer Gianni Bulgari, a lover of fast cars himself, recruited Bodino after seeing his stellar sketches at school. Bodino then freelanced at top fashion houses like Gucci, Versace, and Prada as a creative with an uncanny understanding of the subtle interplay of bijou and bearer. “A piece of jewellery reflects the personality of the woman who wears it — her taste, her feelings,” he says. 

The Villa Mozart is Bodino’s workspace as well as a casket for his breathtaking jewellery. Photo by Simone Casetta

The Villa Mozart is Bodino’s workspace as well as a casket for his breathtaking jewellery. Photo by Simone Casetta

Bodino personally renovated the Villa with touches of classical regality and contemporary flair. Photo by Santi Caleca

Bodino personally renovated the Villa with touches of classical regality and contemporary flair. Photo by Santi Caleca

The Villa Mozart showroom where Bodino displays his one-of-a-kind gems. Photo by Santi Caleca

Needing someone who could transmute these intangible qualities across multiple luxury brands, the Richemont group appointed Bodino its art director in 2002. His rare ability to pinpoint and proffer each brand’s nuanced personality established him as one of the most respected and influential tastemakers in the field of luxury, a reputation that would later open a door of opportunity as priceless as his jewellery. 

In an industry where jewellery maisons live and die by the history and reputation of the brand itself, a world where designers come and go, the Richemont group saw something so special in Bodino, they asked him to design a new premier haute joaillerie brand bearing his own moniker. Most other designers would have pounced on the opportunity, but Bodino, not motivated by personal prestige, felt the timing was not yet ripe. In 2011, it finally felt right, and the unique concept of Maison Giampiero Bodino was born.

“The opportunity to design one-of-a-kind pieces gives me free reign to my creativity, to be able to bring back different inspirations, to experiment with stones and volumes,” Bodino says during an era when jewellery houses typically never give complete creative control. “I think of elements and memories that I have and then reinvent and incorporate them into my jewellery creations — classic, but with a contemporary twist.”  

In 2013, Maison Giampiero Bodino’s doors opened at the Villa Mozart in Milan, the only place in the world you can experience his one-off masterpieces — unusual in an industry obsessed with retail success. Fully restored and designed by Bodino himself, his signature style speaks softly throughout the space — gardens securing the entrance, classical Italian sculptures reminiscent of the Renaissance, his own original paintings adding a touch of modernity, and an intimate ambiance that’s both inviting and exclusive for his clients. 

“To me, it feels like home, and my wish is that guests are welcomed the same way,” he says, his love for people as apparent as his love for art. “Understanding the client and empathy between us is fundamental. It is the starting point from which the creative process is developed.”
But the Villa Mozart is more than a meeting place, it’s his workspace as well, where his organic creative process takes form. 

“All my jewellery is born from a sketch, and I always have a notebook with me,” he says. After black and white sketches, he paints, adding dimensionality and vibrancy to his vision. “I love to paint — it’s a part of me as much as the process of creating jewellery.”

Then comes casting wax and metal prototypes. Finally, master craftsmen hand-assemble the precious stones into an unforgettable, wearable work of art — each an homage to Italy and to the artists who have had a hand in shaping this remarkable culture over the centuries. 

“Italy is like an al fresco museum, thanks to its ancient ruins, architecture, paintings and landscapes,” he says. “I wouldn’t talk about a direct influence of classical art in my creations, I would rather say it’s part of my subconscious. The classics belong to my basic cultural upbringing.” 

Though there is form to his creative process, it remains intuitive and natural, as fluid as the jewellery itself. “My inspiration and references are never literal — it can be a motif, a mosaic, an architectural element, the colour of a stone.” 

The Rosa dei Venti choker — Bodino’s first piece under his new maison — bridges you to the past with hints of Italian heritage. “Within it you may find echoes of the medieval stained glass windows, the sturdy gold chains of the Renaissance, and the graphic pattern of the rose of the winds, seen in so many ancients maps and books,” he says.

The Corona theme, equally exquisite, reminds you of regality and righteousness, hallmarks of his traditional culture. “The crown is the symbol of royalty, and, throughout this piece, you may see a sort of arabesque that reminds you of celebratory garlands as well as the rose windows of Romanesque and Gothic churches. All in the sparkling white of diamonds.” 

Maison Giampiero Bodino jewellery captures a history and spirit that express the beauty of Italian culture, inside and out, likely because its creator’s starting point is so unique. “I believe that in order to be beautiful, jewellery should have a soul,” Bodino says. “My creations are one-of-a-kind, so in a way, they are looking for their soulmate.”

Text by J.H. White  Translated by Zhao Wen  Produced by Peggy Liu