- The Origin: Sotirio Bulgari
- Bulgari Style
- Third to Fourth Generation
- Bulgari Hotels
- #Raise Your Hand
- LVMH Acquires Bulgari
- Current Situation
Bulgari is a dynasty of Italian jewelers that started with Sotirio Bulgari, a native of Epirus, Greece. He began his career as a jeweller in his home village Paramythia. He arrived in Italy in 1879 and brought the goldsmith tradition of ancient Greece. In 1885, he opened a shop in Rome, on via Sistina, offering pieces made with both ancient and modern goldsmith techniques. The business developed and, 20 years later, the firm found a new headquarters in via Condotti.
Starting in the mid 1900s, the production took on precise and original physical characteristics. This is the result of the creative commitment and entrepreneurial intuition of Sotirio’s two sons, Costantino and Giorgio, who had joined the company’s management in the early 1930s. Costantino, interested especially in collecting, started to gather artistic objects. Such as icons, carved jades, to deepen his study of the ancient goldsmith’s art. He wrote the book Argentieri, Gemmari e Orafi (Silversmiths, Jewelers and Goldsmiths), a fundamental work for knowledge of the Italian goldsmith tradition. Giorgio was put in charge of the commercial management of the company.
At the end of the 1940s BVLGARI introduced the Serpenti bracelet-watches, with coils in Tubogas or in gold mesh. This style is still popular today. In the meantime, the jeweler’s boutique became a favorite meeting place of the aristocracy, of rich American tourists traveling to Rome, and of the cinema’s international jet set. Introducing the cabochon cut and the use of colored stones set in yellow gold, Bulgari launched a new style of great inventive freedom. The emblem of tradition was instead carried by the ancient Greek and Roman coins that were offered as the central pendants in necklaces and link bracelets shaped like a gas pipe, or as decorative motifs in rings, brooches, earrings, and furnishings in silver. The impeccable manufacturing, refinement in composition, and unmistakable designs turned these jewels into real cult-objects.
In the 1960s, the company was joined by Costantino’s daughters, Anna and Marina, and also by Giorgio’s sons, Gianni, Paolo and Nicola. After Giorgio’s death in 1966, his son Gianni led the company as co-chief executive with his cousin Marina. These last two are the present heads of the company, together with their nephew Francesco Trapani, who is general director. In the 1970s, the company began to expand on the international market, opening subsidiaries in New York, Paris, Geneva, and Monte Carlo.
In 1985, Gianni resigned as CEO and in 1987, he left the family business after selling his one-third stake in the company to his brothers Nicola and Paolo. The brothers were named Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the company and nephew Francesco Trapani was named CEO. Trapani’s goal to diversify the company started in the early 1990s.
The 1980’s and 1990’s are marked by an era of opulence. Bulgari’s perfect adaptation to the contemporary world is reflected once more in its masterpieces. This years witnessed the birth the desired exemplary Parentesi; first line of modular jewellery, Bulgari-Bulgari; shapes inspired by the Roman Colosseum, and Quadrato watches. More examples of Bulgari’s adaptation to the world’s current opulence was the experimentation of new materials.
The year 1991 saw the début of the Naturalia Collection, which was inspired by the animal and vegetable world. For the occasion, the film Anima Mundi was produced, with the proceeds given to the World Wildlife Fund. The 1990s saw the creation of men’s and women’s accessories, small leather goods, foulards, ties, and eye glasses.
In 1996 Bulgari started an experiment with new materials, in the jewellery line called Chandra, in which porcelain was used together with gold. In 2001 the firm launched Lucea, a collection that was innovative in style and characterized by a fluid weaving together of gold and precious stones. The advertising for it featured the model Gisele Bündchen.
The year 2002 saw the birth of Bulgari Hotel & Resorts, a joint venture between Bulgari and Luxury Group, the luxury hotel division of Marriott International. They envisioned a series of luxury hotels, the first of which would be in the center of Milan, in via privata Fratelli Gabba, near Piazza Scala and the Brera. In Autumn 2003, the company launched the women’s fragrance Omnia, the eighth creation in the perfume line for men and women under the Bulgari brand.
In 2009 two new collections, Bvlgari New, and B.zero 1 were presented. Bvlgari New was characterized by a gold circle engraved with the iconic double logo. The materials used were 18-carat yellow or white gold, either alone or combined with onyx, mother-of-pearl, or with bright pavé diamonds. The new B.zero 1 is fresh and feminine, thanks to its colored gems. Peridots, blue topazes, garnets, citrines and amethysts with vivid colors. The collection has a particular transparency combined with thin chains and pendants that give life and movement to each piece. In addition, the iconic watches of the Italian fashion house are renewed with three new dials in white, pink and brown mother of pearl. What makes the piece special is the diamonds combined with the strap, proposed in three different colors.
Officially in 2004, Bulgari’s first hotel opened at Via Privata Fratelli Gabba in Milano, besides the prestigious La Scala theatre, in a tastefully renovated 18th-century Milanese palazzo. Later, in 2005 the brands hotels international expansion began establishing a new hotel in Bali, followed by the ones opened in London and Shanghai in 2012 and 2015 respectively. A further expansion is scheduled for 2017 in Dubai.
Bulgari proudly celebrates its philanthropic, global partnership with Save the Children by launching the new campaign #RAISE YOUR HAND. In 2009 BVLGARI has partnered with Save the Children. The company helps fund the nonprofit’s activities with proceeds from the Save the Children jewellery collection, custom-designed jewels, inspired by the iconic B.zero1 line. Bulgari has raised over $50 million in the past seven years for this charity project. And the purpose of #RAISE YOUR HAND 2016 is to emphasize the importance of children’s health.
During the first quarter of 2011, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton acquired the majority of Bulgari S.p.A. shareholdings. In 2014 in pursue of conserving the Bulgari’s heritage, a “unique palace” named DOMVS, in reference to the brand’s major source of inspiration and actual home, was opened to the public that serves as an exhibition and art gallery.
Situated on the second floor of the brand’s boutique at Via Condotti, DOMVS provides a unique storytelling of Bulgari’s stylistic evolution through iconic pieces such as the ones collected for the prestigious Heritage Collection. This temple also displays images and belongings of iconic divas that once embrace the brand such as Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, and Anna Edberg. In early 2015, Bulgari started a long-term collaboration with one of most celebrated design school Central Saint Martins for supporting young fashion designers through design competitions.
In 2016 Le Gemme Men, a new collection of male luxury fragrances, was born, inspired by the tradition and excellence values of Haute Joaillerie. At the same year in July, Bulgari launched a new high jewelry collection Festa, the spectacular collection has over a hundred jewelers and watches inspired by Italian art de vivre. In particular, the Palio necklace and bracelet are more than exceptional, and stand for the famous horse race in Siena.
In 2017, Rome’s National Museum of 21st Century Arts and Bulgari join together and started a new project called MAXXI Bulgari Prize to support young contemporary artist. An international jury will spotlight and choose features young talents and present their work at National Museum of 21st Century Arts. Today, the name Bulgari expresses in just one word the concept of classic jewelry modeled according to the new dictates of contemporary taste.
From conquering the growing French artistic power in the 20’s, accommodating to resources droughts due to wars in the 40’s, to seducing new markets with creative and innovative designs and brand expansions, Bulgari has earned the right to be called the top of the luxury jewelry industry.