“The title of this article is not really correct and should actually read ‘The Story of Barbarulo Napoli 1894’. But since it was Cristiano Barbarulo who did quite a job to bring back this old Italian Jewellery name, that now only sells his own creations, we decided to put the man behind the brand in the spotlight. The Barbarulo brand was founded by the goldsmith Raffaele Barbarulo in 1894. In early 1900 he moved to Naples from a small nearby village. In 1983 his grandson Raffaele (Cristiano’s father) moved the shop to the isle of Capri. It was only 2012 when Cristiano Barbarulo decided to move back the shop to Napels to start the production of his own collection. At the moment the production is totally 100% made in Naples! When we spoke to Cristiano we asked him the following:
GC: What was your relation with the Barbarulo shop in Capri before you were involved and what made you decide to move the company to Naples in 2012?
CB: In 1894 my great-grandfather Raffaele Barbarulo started his craft activity in the world of jewelry and in the early 1900s, he moved to Naples from a small village.
In these years the first Barbarulo shop was opened in the ancient area of the city. (Pictured above).
After my great-grandfather, Raffaele the business of selling jewelry was carried out by his son Amedeo Barbarulo until the 70s. Afterward, my father Raffaele Barbarulo decided to move the shop to the wonderful island of Capri in 1983 by starting the sale of antique jewelry but at the same time, he was famous on the island for his unique handmade jewelry for very special customers. These were unique pieces that he never reproduced. Like the famous Italian musician Paganini, it never happened again!
The shop in Capri remained open until 2012, the year in which my father decided to retire to private life after 50 years of hard work and I made the tough decision to quit my bank job to continue working in the family activity but with a completely renewed and much more creative spirit.
I decided to return to Naples, my city, from which everything had started, and I registered the “Barbarulo Napoli 1894” brand linked to our city and to the origin of the history of our family of jewelers. In a few months, I found from a desk in the bank, the need to direct a small artisan production of just cufflinks. I started to love this elegant accessory when as a boy I followed my father Raffaele around the world to buy antique jewelry.
With his precious support, in the first 6 months of 2012, we imagined the first models that could give the brand a creative touch and today after a few years we can say that we were right because in a very short time my business was involved in film productions which won Oscar Awards and realizations exclusive for the best clubs in Italy.
Thanks to our growth, today we are able to manage all our products directly totally 100% “Made in Naples”.
GC: When we compare the overall look of your collection to the collections of the large names of jewelry in the world, we noticed immediately that you see a cufflink much more as three-dimensional design, that should look good on all sides, instead of a nice font and a standard flipper on the other side. What is your view on the closures of cufflinks?
CB: When I started the production of cufflinks, my primary objective was to convince the largest number of people to use cufflinks in their daily lives. Usually, most people remember to wear cufflinks only for special occasions and do not imagine that everyday use is possible and it is also beautiful and even practical and exciting!
To achieve this ambitious result, we worked on beauty and practicality. In our production we have excluded the classic cufflinks with double button and chain, they are nice but uncomfortable to wear. We have created a beautiful whale flip closure and a fixed closure with a nice silver button. Which is a registered Barbarulo design. Over the years I have always worked on the hidden beauty of our cufflinks; and many of the new collections will have in addition to the fixed button closure, also the most beautiful and elegant closure with a stone or with enamel.
I like to imagine that when the Barbarulo customer drinks a good glass of wine or Champagne he can raise his wrist showing a nice silver button or a nice stone instead of a simple silver bar. In any case, I love my whale flip closure which in just 5 seconds allows me to close my cuff every morning!
I wear and propose to all my customers the use of shirts with simple and not double cuffs, but this is another story to tell.
GC: We know that Barbarulo is open to custom orders. Should we consider this activity more addressed to companies that need 20 pairs with their logo, or is there also room for the collector with a special wish, for a certain motive and/or material?
CB: The concept of customization is very complex. We assume that we love to work with the idea of making any order as unique as possible. Usually, we don’t put limits on our creativity. Many customers ask for a softer first level customization service, based on a color or stone variant compared to our catalog or to change the type closure of the cufflinks. But there are also requests, which we place on a second level, for customers who want to create original models. In this case, to satisfy their requests, we try to start from models already in production and make small changes so as not to make the design and construction project of the model that are quite expensive.
The third level is the most sophisticated and complex one in which we are asked to study, design, and create new and complex three-dimensional shapes. In this case, it would be advisable to proceed with a minimum order of 20-30 couples but we also had some special cases of those who, due to the strong desire to see their little dream come true, did not worry about the cost of the whole project.
GC: 2022 will be the ‘Year of the Tiger’ in Asia. From a color- and a shape point of view, a Tiger is very interesting. Is Asia a market for cufflinks and is Asia important enough for Barbarulo to create something special for?
CB: We can consider this a nice challenge George! We care a lot about the Asian market and surely we will be pleased to dedicate our creation to this extraordinary animal that deserves attention and respect especially in these recent years.
GC: Barbarulo has been for years that typical Italian brand for connoisseurs. The world of the Internet has changed a lot and you are now selling your collection of cufflinks WorldWide via your webshop and though your dealers around the globe. How do you communicate with your customers in various parts of the world, to find out their wishes?
CB: Internet is essential for all handcraft companies to position themselves in all world markets. Furthermore, thanks to Instagram, today the relationship with customers has become even more direct and often confidential. We receive many requests and calls that make our special activity of “Bespoke Jewelry” possible and concrete.
And it’s nice to find out that with a simple phone call, the sound of the voice and the passion we put into our work manages to amaze even more than any promotional campaign done impersonally on the web.
GC: What do you think does the future hold for cufflinks: will they become a victim of the ever-increasing casualization of the world or will they hold their ground?
CB: The use of cufflinks could also have a slight decline in front of this casual fashion trend but remains and will remain always the perfect gift for a man.
This was the question I asked myself before starting my great adventure: “what is the perfect gift that can be given to a man?” The answer was simple and immediate: cufflinks! Why? 1) because you are sure that he will find a good reason to use them during his life; 2) because with a reasonable amount you can allow yourself the privilege of giving a jewel; 3) because it is never a trivial gift and because who gives a man a pair of cufflinks makes a double gift: the cufflinks and the consideration of its elegance.
GC: Thank you for your time Cristiano, you build a very attractive collection over the past eight years. The fact that you don’t settle for an easy way out when it comes to closures and details, makes your brand ideal for men who really care about their style and the way they choose their accessories.