A few seasons back, Bottega Veneta debuted a jewelry collection that surprised me. I must begin by saying that I am an admirer of Bottega Veneta and I am usually flabber-ghasted by the beauty and simplicity of their work. But this jewelry collection is such a departure from their renown quality and vision.
Berlin Iron is a type of jewelry popular during the late 18th century through to the mid-19th century made of black lacquered iron. As the Napoleonic War swept through Europe, citizens were encouraged to give up their precious gold and silver jewelry to fund the fighting against Napoleon. In exchange, they would receive jewelry pieces made of iron sometimes inscribed with messages like “Gold gab ich für Eisen (I gave gold for iron), or Far das Wahl des Vaterlands (For the welfare of our country / motherland)”.
The early Berlin Iron styles were Neo-Classical with the use of cameos depicting classical scenes. Later, the styles became more Gothic and incorporated lace openwork motifs. Because of its black coloration, Berlin Iron also became popular as a form of mourning jewelry.
Bottega Veneta is a leader in luxury, design and craftsmanship and to see such blatant “borrowing” from a historical style is rather uncharacteristic. I am sure many would argue that there is nothing wrong with taking inspiration from a historical design but to my eye, the new pieces by Bottega Veneta look like crude knock-offs of original Berlin Irons … Not to mention the strange Lover’s Eye Miniature and Berlin Iron hybrids that were also a part of this collection – borrowing from two totally different historical genres and slapping them together haphazardly is simply unacceptable.
It is of my opinion that if Bottega Veneta, with their status at the forefront of luxury, were to take inspiration from history, the end result should be something fresh, extraordinary and luxurious.
Yet Bottega Veneta fails to deliver – their lace openwork is made of crude coils of flattened wire. The cameos are all the same and lacking the details and nuances which give fine cameos their allure.
One recognizes the pieces for what they are alluding to yet no new interpretation is offered. In fact, the whole collection looks like an art school project rather than what you would expect from a sophisticated luxury brand.
Their leather bags are fabulous. Their ready-to-wear is the epitome of understated elegance. But the jewelry is sorely lacking the attention to detail, fine craftsmanship and sophistication for which Bottega Veneta is known the world over.