It was written in the DNA of the master of coloured gemstones that Bulgari would one day travel the roads of the world to seek the secret correspondences between gemstones and fragrances. And thus in 2014, the first Le Gemme collection for women appeared, an olfactory tribute to six precious stones that are emblematic of the Roman jeweller.
Two years later, the same journey was revisited, out of which came Bulgari’s first high perfumery collection for men. With Le Gemme dedicated to men, Bulgari draws a very contemporary and new map of masculinity of which the 21st-century man is the heir.
For such an epic journey, Bulgari entrusted master perfumer Jacques Cavallier with the task of transcribing the six gemstones of the collection in a radical palette. In the same way stone-cutters reveal the beauty of gemstones with their skills, Cavallier has worked exceptional raw materials to the limits to exalt their richness and reveal them in a new, unexpected register.
As a collection, Le Gemme for men evokes distinct qualities of the contemporary man―a combination of strength and individuality that has since the dawn of time characterised powerful men in and around the Mediterranean, men who are both conquerors and charmers.
PASSION FOR GEMS
Since time immemorial, mankind has always been fascinated with gemstones. In the shape of jewellery, amulets, talismans of all sorts, their unique vibes immediately place them in a mystical dimension. To contemplate the mineral world is to reactivate the memory of the original structure: gems express the harmony of the cosmos and place themselves at the centre of man’s relationship with the world. Each transmits its power through the energy it contains.
Because knowing them meant power, the roads they took were long kept secret. To follow them in one’s mind is to walk into a legendary world of extraordinary wealth, to list famous names from the dawn of the Mediterranean civilisations: from Mesopotamia to Egypt, from Phoenicia to Arabia, from China to India. Caravans and merchants have crossed the Himalayas, the deserts, followed rivers such as the Euphrates and the Tigris, travelled from the Nile to the Persian Gulf and over the Indian Ocean, from the shores of the Aegean Sea to those of Asia Minor.
Amber from Baltics, precious stones from the Sinai, incense and myrrh from the mysterious Land of Punt, the saddlebags of the caravan drivers were full of scented woods, resins, spices, flowers and plants. At the beginning of the second millennium an extraordinary cosmopolitan culture arose; exchanges flourished and gemstones and perfumes played a fundamental role in these.
Bulgari has inherited this passion for gemstones, their mythology, the quest for them and their cutting. The master perfumer and jeweller anchors its inspiration and skill at the heart of this ancient memory that it revisits today in its collection of luxury perfumes for men. Like the six volumes of a compact, tactile and olfactory encyclopaedia, which explores the paths of knowledge and beauty.
CAPTURED IN PERFUMERY
For the first time in the history of luxury perfumery for men, Bulgari recreates a tribute to great conquerors with the emblematic gems that accompanied them in their conquests. United by the same passion for exceptional raw materials, Bulgari chose master perfumer Jacques Cavallier for this new olfactory adventure. Cavallier has imagined the journey around six emblematic stones, each with intense colour and a strong and expressive history. The road has led to six decisive and charismatic scents. The creation of each fragrance was a true challenge for the perfumer: the opportunity to explore, and revisit, major themes of men’s perfume such as fougère, to combine extreme accords and contrasts around an ambery citrus, or to pay tribute to exceptional raw materials such as patchouli, vetiver, oud or roses.
Cavallier has worked in total creative freedom to transcribe the universe of these six gemstones, while using some of the rarest and most desirable natural ingredients in the world of perfumery. He deliberately chose to use generous doses, virtually without limits. These extremely rich and sophisticated signatures are Bulgari’s promise to offer the quality of a great perfume to men.
How did the stones inspire you?
I love the idea of basing my work on a gemstone, entering the kaleidoscope of textures and notes which correspond to colours and their scents: the chromatic duality of tiger’s eye, the intense green of malachite, the emotion awakened by amber, the deep blue of a sapphire from the mountains of Kashmir, the sacred aura and the depth of the garnet, the mythical and mystical power of black onyx.
What is high perfumery for men? And how is the approach different for a perfumer?
Luxury perfumery means being able to work with total creative freedom. I have been doing with Bulgari for over 20 years with the ability to make some very bold decisions and do different things. For this collection, I enjoyed developing exceptional and exclusive raw ingredients for the maison, or reworking known ones to express their more masculine side, sometimes even diverting them to ‘rewrite’ them in a new way. For this project, I had time to create ‘customised’ ingredients. The work, the refining, the division I have operated on several of them is similar to that of a jeweller when he is given a rough stone. I have gone into the very heart of the ingredients.
How have you ‘rewritten’ the ingredients/formulas for Le Gemme?
I chose to revisit important themes of perfumery without having a nostalgic or old-fashioned vision of them. Quite the opposite, all the notes are anchored in absolute modernity. It is this modernity which best defines this masculine collection of Le Gemme. It expresses what I consider the very DNA of Bulgari: a freedom of tone, boldness, luxurious materials or ingredients. At the end of the day, that is what creates emotion.
What is the creation process like for you?
There’s the time when you create, where creation is purely emotional, coming from intuition. And then you have the rational part of it, but if you think too much of that, you’ll destroy what intuition has created. You have to be in between and it’s the most difficult thing to do. The best thing is to not work on a project for a month or two and then return to it later.
What are some of the world’s most precious ingredients for perfumery?
Iris is about €150,000/kg; jasmine from Grasse costs approximately €130,000/kg; agarwood is as expensive as gold, more than €37,000/kg.
Its optical effects, with yellow and brown stripes, fascinated the ancients. For them, the tiger’s eye was the gemstone that sees everything, connecting man to the energy of the earth and the sun and giving him mental strength and intuition. A magnetic gemstone, whose properties―strength and virility―are entirely summarised in its name, its reference to the king of the jungle. Tygar is a fragrance with incomparable brightness and a very strong personality. Around an explosive grapefruit, an accord of deep woods and ambrox captures the duality and the exceptional energies of the tiger’s eye. The first impression and impact is surprising. The base is dense, but still contains light and energy. The creation of this ambery citrus―the most Italian of the collection and a perfume with a strong identity―was a tremendous challenge for Cavallier: a new and dazzling contrast between grapefruit with its freshness and light and the darker and earthier amber note of ambrox, in a dosage which is unique in the market. Tygar evokes sparkling and sophisticated virility.
Pliny the Elder gave it a special section in his Natural History as it was so loved in all antiquity, especially by the Romans. It appealed through its ornamental and decorative qualities (used in mosaics and objets d’art), for fresco painting or as a talisman in jewellery. Malachite has many properties: protecting against lightening, it is said to bring assurance to orators, absorb negative energy and also to stimulate the sense of aesthetics. Its alternating light and dark bands make it the perfect stone of light and shade, which rebalances energies. The most beautiful imperial palaces in Russia were decorated with this symbol of magnificence and absolute power: the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg with its breath-taking malachite drawing room and the state study of Alexander I in Catherine the Great’s palace in Tsarskoye Selo. Bulgari’s interpretation of the malachite is inspired by the taste for splendour and pomp of the Romanov, the great conquerors whose Empire eventually stretched from Prussia to China, from the Caucasus to the Arctic.
Malakeos pays tribute to a classical theme of masculine perfumery, fougère, which has entirely been revisited. In search of a powerful naturalness, an icy and nurturing green freshness, the fragrance resonates with the properties and the colours of malachite and captures the deep and aromatic greens of the forests of the Ural. The unique character of this creation, where lavender and oakmoss reign along with a very rare bourbon geranium, is resolutely modern on its base of musk.
Since Prehistory, these ‘golden tears’ secreted by conifers have appealed to humankind in the shape of amulets, jewels or objets d’art. In all civilisations, from the royal tombs in Egypt to Apollo’s sanctuary in Delphi, amber is mythical. An organic gem that is soft and warm to touch, its palette is that of the sun. And because of the energy it exudes, amber is associated with regeneration and eternal youth. The vetiver root securely anchors Ambero to the depths of the earth and the shores of the Levant. Through spicy, rounded, unctuous and slightly ambery notes, the perfumer presents a very different and contemporary interpretation of Vetiver with a warm, dense and voluptuous heart, which recalls that of amber. It has a unique orientalism, to which olibanum incense adds an extremely elegant character. Together it creates an earthy, surprising and resolutely modern perfume.
The sapphire is positioned just behind the diamond for its exceptional hardness. Gyan in Sanskrit means ‘divine wisdom’; this gives the sapphire, in charge of diffusing divine light, a sacred place in magic, alchemy or astrological rituals. It was the stone of justice, truth, purity and energy in the ancient Egypt as in Rome. The most legendary sapphires come from Kashmir in India where legend has it that giants ripped out a piece of the sky. Above the snow, the Himalayas were born, a majestic casing for the rarest sapphires, at over 4,000m above sea level, in the region of Zaskar. They have a unique intense and velvety cornflower blue, known as the ‘Royal Blue’. Brightened by a generous dose of night jasmine, which envelops the scent with its sensuality, patchouli illustrates the mysteries of the blue of the sapphire in Gyan. This unique creation combines patchouli with a flower, and delivers a very sophisticated particularly masculine perfume with an incomparable sillage: its trilogy of woods, dominated by its extraordinary heart of Indonesian patchouli, illustrates the aristocratic grandeur and elegance of this stone of knowledge he pays tribute to. Cavallier has used patchouli very generously, and reworked it in Grasse to highlight the most noble and beautiful aspects of its scent.
The extraordinary level of refraction of the almandine garnet, its hardness close to that of the diamond, have earned it a place in the pantheon of gemstones in the book in which Pliny the Elder described it in the early 1st century. It is for its sacred and sensuous qualities that Suleiman the Magnificent selected the garnet as a love token for his chosen wife. Suleiman was well aware that the garnet, Hades’s gift to Persephone, symbolises eternity in Greek mythology. Cavallier has imagined a supremely elegant and virile rose―a duality in which ancient mysteries and sophistication answer each other, transcribed in the dialogue between two symbolic ingredients: rose and incense. Garanat is a perfume that is as rich and thick as velvet: curls of roses and intoxicating incense chiaroscuro create a warm, surprising and fascinating fragrance with great masculine strength.
Its impenetrable black summarises the qualities which have been ascribed to black onyx, a variety of chalcedony, since the earliest times. Its name recalls Chalcedon, an ancient port on the Sea of Marmara in Asia Minor that was a major centre for gemstone commerce in high antiquity. Its colour expresses the raw energy it contains. The Egyptians believed it helped pass from one shore to another, from the visible world to the invisible: the black onyx is the stone of Osiris, the god of the dead but also of the return to life. It symbolises masculine fertility, embodied by the black silt of the Nile. To illustrate the ambivalence of the black onyx, Cavallier chose the power of royal oud. It has the balance between the different facets of this ingredient, a symbol of wealth and rank in Oriental countries where it has been used it for millennia. A product that is more expensive than gold, which is one of the most beautiful and loved natural notes in the world. For Onekh, Cavallier has used a sublime natural oud: leathery and spicy wood, with notes of saffron and honey. The contrast between brittle, dry and smoked woods and the balmy, addictive and sensual notes serve to enhance this oud of unprecedented quality.