Bulgari Serpenti: Uncovering the beauty of a bijoux bag

(Image credit: Future)

Having played around with extremities in previous years, from the super small to the very oversized, the spring/summer 2024 collections had a renewed interest in the bijoux bag. Pretty, petite, ornamental.

At Bulgari, the Roman fine jewellery Maison, it’s been a speciality for some time—owing to its signature motif, the Serpenti snake, making the move from jewellery and watches to handbags. Among them: the Serpenti Forever, the Serpenti Tote, the Serpenti Forever East West and the Serpenti Baia shoulder bag, the latter pictured above.

Founded in 1884 by the Greek silversmith Sotirio Bulgari, the distinctive interpretation of the reptile first debuted in 1948 as jewellery and watches. By the 1950s, the design had become more realistic and featured coloured enamels and gemstones; in the 1960s, materials literally scaled up to simulate the serpent’s appearance. And, the design has continued to evolve in technique, make, colour and material ever since, having already celebrated 75 years. There are bracelets, rings, necklaces and earrings.

But back to the bags.

A close up look at the Bulgari Serpenti bag detailing

(Image credit: Future)

The best-selling Serpenti Forever was the focus of the 2021 initiative Serpenti Through the Eyes Of to which the designer Mary Katrantzou contributed a design inspired by the archives—in a fun twist of fate, the Greek designer was recently appointed as Bulgari’s creative director of leather goods and accessories—including handbags and one-off high jewellery clutch bags (something to be very excited about).

We’re sizing up the Baia, already an emerging street style favourite worn by stars Amiaya.

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Its vital statistics?

A small shoulder bag with two detachable, thick snake body-shaped chains—it can also work as a cross-body bag with another adjustable chain strap—and the recognisable snakehead magnetic closure.

Measuring in at 27.5 x 18 x 4.5 cm, it features a single compartment (easy to find things) with a zip-top closure (ideal for security and safety) and an internal flat open pocket (great for organisation). Made from calf leather with internal nappa lining, hardware is plated gold brass; with onyx for the Serpenti eyes and gold-plated brass, enamel and light gold-plated brass scales for the head.

A close up look at the Bulgari Serpenti bag detailing

(Image credit: Future)

The website currently has 10 colour options, from silver to mustard and pink—ideal for a summertime dopamine hit. A Milky Opal Pearly Karung version is also being released for high summer. Its leather is hand-sprayed with a mixture of pearl dust to give it a pink sheen, a softer sunset-ready take on the style.

“I would really describe it [the Baia] as this generation's minaudière—a blend between a bag and a piece of jewellery,” says Dino Bonacic, a noted bag aficionado (he started a newsletter dedicated to them in 2022), and fashion commentator.

A close up look at the Bulgari Serpenti bag detailing

(Image credit: Future)

He pinpoints its shape as standing out against the continued trend for oversized bags, enabling still though a phone and the few practicalities one might need; and that the range of colours and textures available makes it “almost like a collectible”. Further, “the strap is truly the highlight,” he says, “it feels like a piece of fine jewellery that reflects the Bulgari’s brand identity.”

How would he wear it? “I always love to see evening bags outside their intended context—going against the grain,” he suggests, “casualness but finishing an outfit with something so decadent.”

Of course, the beauty of a bijoux bag for summer is: it doesn’t feel as dressy during the day, it just feels fun. But can easily transform as the afternoon turns to evening.

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Jessica Bumpus
Fashion Journalist

Jessica Bumpus is a freelance journalist specialising in fashion, lifestyle, luxury, craftsmanship and emerging talent. She was formerly the Fashion Features Editor at British Vogue online for 8 years, where she covered fashion weeks extensively. Her work can be seen in New York Times International, Elle.com US, The Week Fashion, Nylon and more! 

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