Top High-Jewelry Houses

By Kristen Shirley

This story originally appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.

The pinnacle of the jewelry world, high jewelry features a house’s most exceptional stones and showcases its creativity and technical advances in craftsmanship. Each piece is special and rare, most never recreated. Some pieces, like the Hope Diamond seen here, become world-famous. Some are purchased in secret and never seen by the public. Read on for our selection of jewelry’s most famous names and our pick of the best new high jewelers.


Rome, 1884

For Bulgari, everything begins with Rome: iconic images of Elizabeth Taylor and other Hollywood stars leaving the flagship boutique on Via dei Condotti, bucking tradition and classical high-jewelry codes from Paris by embracing colored gemstones and cabochon cuts and, perhaps best known of all, its enduring Serpenti jewelry, inspired by Roman myths. Of course, it’s not enough to have a sense of fun and la dolce vita, and Bulgari has expert craftsmanship and stunning stones, which it showcases in its high-jewelry collections. Famous pieces from the past include the Seven Wonders necklace, set with seven large Colombian emeralds, and Elizabeth Taylor’s sapphire sautoir, given to her by Richard Burton. Today, Bulgari celebrates its history in each piece of high jewelry, most recently with the pictured Serpenti necklace, featuring more than 75 carats of diamonds.