Woman wearing vintage jewellery

Wagner Eleuteri: Vintage jeweller

Wagner Eleuteri has inherited a passion for rare things that sparkle, says Avril Groom

Wagner Eleuteri is the fourth generation of the family-owned, high-end vintage jewellers Eleuteri, which is a favourite with royalty, movie stars and the international jet-set.

The Italian-born, British-educated 32-year-old now lives in New York, where Eleuteri opened a flagship store in 2015. In 2019, the company launched a boutique in the Swiss resort of St. Moritz at Palace Galerie, owned by the luxury five-star Badrutt’s Palace Hotel.

What is Eleuteri’s philosophy and how does it curate its pieces?

We buy on instinct, but with caution. You cannot buy what you love unless the price is right. People buy to wear, but there is also an investment angle. Some customers only want signed pieces while others are looking for unusual things – very colourful or with an exciting history, which is fun but riskier. There are no precise criteria. Our jewellery ranges from the Renaissance to the early 1990s. Different ages buy differently, often with nostalgia for their youth.

Which are your most popular brands?

We are very close to Bulgari which, like us, was founded in Rome by Greeks. Bulgari is so creative, particularly its pieces from the 1950s to the 1970s. Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Sterlé and British Victorian and Edwardian jewellery are also popular.

What is your most recent find and your all-time favourite?

I just found a very unusual Italian hunting bracelet, probably late-19th century, featuring an emerald carved with a dog’s face, with gold leaves and wild boar. The best-ever? A Bulgari suite made for its first US shop in the 1980s with the Stars and Stripes in gems – it’s so Pop Art. I think they would love to buy it back.

What are your own favourite personal items of jewellery?
I’m not very flamboyant by nature. I wear my maternal grandfather’s Rolex – a very distinctive 1958 model in red and blue made for Pan Am pilots. I also have a few vintage cufflinks. But, when I recently went to the Save Venice annual ball in New York, a very extravagant occasion, I did wear a diamond pin in my lapel.

Are there trends in vintage jewellery?

Less so than in fashion because the range is so wide, but we see clusters of requests for similar items. Chokers are currently popular and inspired by current fashion trends, and stacking rings, where people combine their own choices. And interestingly, we’re seeing men buying women’s pieces to acquire something flamboyant, especially Bulgari Monete necklaces, which women love too, and 1960s and 1970s diamond pins, which look great on a tuxedo, as worn by stars like actors Rami Malek (below) or Timothée Chalamet.

Have you noticed people choosing different styles since the pandemic started?

We have certainly sold more crosses – I think clients find them protective and comforting. And our online business has really grown. But seeing and trying on jewellery is essential so some pieces may not suit. The process requires trust on both sides, which we have.

What made you choose St. Moritz for your first European store outside Italy?

The opportunity was serendipity as Badrutt’s Palace Hotel approached us. I didn’t know St. Moritz, but my father did, so we went to look and decided very quickly it was a good idea. We opened in December 2019.

How was Eleuteri’s first season in St. Moritz?

Winter is the main season and we were very pleased with our sales, our connections with clients and our positive reception. We had a strong collection of important pieces and classic diamonds; in the summer, the collection is lighter and more colourful, with lots of coral, turquoise and yellow gold. We weren’t badly affected by the pandemic though we were forced to close two weeks early.

What is your impression of St. Moritz?

I got to know it well in the two months we spent there while setting up the boutique. We stayed for a little while in Badrutt’s Palace Hotel while it was closed to the public – just us and the staff preparing for the season. It was very eerie, but in a good way. It’s so beautiful and historic with such tall ceilings and amazing views of the lake and the mountains.

What are your favourite things to do in St. Moritz?

I love to ski at the weekend, and my favourite place to stop in the Corviglia ski area is a mountain hut called Trutz. It serves very traditional but delicious bratwurst and rösti on a sunny terrace looking out to the lake. I also love taking the train to Preda, 20 minutes away, then tobogganing down to Bergün and catching the train back. You can also do a bobsleigh trip with two professional instructors – it’s scarily fast. After that I’d choose to have a Japanese dinner at Matsuhisa in Badrutt’s Palace Hotel. In summer, cycling is the best sport, going around the lake or on little mountains roads to Celerina.

You have a passion for adrenaline sports?

Yes! I also love the thrill of surfing and have tried it all over the world, from little local beaches in Italy or on Long Island to Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Brazil. I also play football, with a team of good amateurs that we Italians in New York set up.

And how do you relax?

Either on a beach or doing something cultural and in-depth – I like to get under the skin of a city by spending time there. I love Eastern Europe and the Caucasus – I speak Russian, have a Russian girlfriend and spent time in Moscow. On my bucket list are the Trans-Siberian Railway and Central Asia.

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