Birthplace: Greece

Born in Greece in 1857, Sotirio Bulgari, armed with his skills as a silversmith, came to Naples in 1881 and opened a small shop where he engraved precious objects. He moved to Rome four years later and opened a shop on the Via Sistina, eventually moving his business to the Via Condotti, the same street on which its modern headquarters is located today. Sons Giorgio and Costantino gradually took over the business in the 1920s, first continuing their artful engraving and then turning to the production of modern jewelry.

Bulgari's success is due largely to the introduction of a new aesthetic into modern jewelry. In place of the so called French-style setting, characterized by a diamond surrounded with other precious stones, which had dominated since the 1700s, Bulgari used round, colored stones set in handmade gold bezels on thick gold chain necklaces. By studying and integrating both Etruscan and Renaissance motifs, such as cameo intaglios and cabochons, in new and modern ways, the Bulgari brothers introduced center stones of violet, pink, and yellow. These bold designs virtually transformed the look of twentieth-century jewelry.

In the 1950s, Bulgari was the first to substitute yellow gold for platinum and the first to put semiprecious cabochons into fine jewelry. In addition, the use of antique coins and architectural shapes, rather than shapes found in nature, was a complete departure from the prevailing style of the preceding 200 years.

Bulgari is the only house of jewelry to have achieved a worldwide reputation after World War II, and it has become the third largest jeweler in the world, surpassed only by Cartier and Tiffany and Company. During the 1970s Bulgari expanded internationally, opening stores in New York, Paris, Monte Carlo, and Geneva. In 1977 the now classic Bulgari-Bulgari watch was created. The company, like its competitors, has expanded its offerings through licensing agreements with Rosenthal for crystal and tableware and with Luxottica for eyewear. In addition, Bulgari offers its own fragrance collection. Today, run by the fourth generation of Bulgari family members, it has approximately eighty locations throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States. See also: Cartier, Tiffany and Company.

Website: http://www.bulgari.com

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