Sotirio Bulgari, a descendant of Greek silversmiths, moved to Italy during the middle of the 19th century and in 1884 opened a shop in Rome selling “artistic silverware, antiquities, and jewelry.” (He also Italianized his name to Bvlgari, as it still appears in advertising today.) To combat the slow Roman summer, Bulgari packed up his limited stock and summered with the rest of Italy in the mountain resort town of St. Moritz, selling his wares to vacationers. By 1905 he had six shops and, with his sons, he opened the store on the prestigious via Condotti in Rome across from the Spanish Steps, a famous landmark. This shop remains the most prestigious and well-known Bulgari store.
The sons took an interest in stones and jewels and expanded the business in that direction in the early decades of the 20th Latex Fetishcentury. The senior Bulgari made changes of his own He departed from the traditional French styling of the day and created his own unique, Greek-inspired style. The jewels caught the eyes of Hollywood, and stars from Mary Pickford to Tyrone Power were seen wearing Bulgari. Grace Kelly wore Bulgari before and after she became a princess. In the 1940s Bulgari began making watches.
In 1963 one of the most famous rings of all time was purchased at a Bulgari shop by Richard Burton for his “Cleopatra” co-star Liz Taylor, who was married to singer Eddie Fisher at the time. By the 1970s Bulgari was ready for international expansion, opening stores in New York (its first overseas), Paris, Geneva, and Monte Carlo. The Bulgari-Bulgari was introduced in 1977, and it is still the company’s best-selling watch. In the early 1980s the company established watch division Bulgari Time in Switzerland.
In 1993 Bulgari kicked off a campaign to expand its brand by introducing Au the Vert, a unisex fragrance, which was soon followed by Bulgari pour Femme. In 1995 Bulgari went public and was listed on the Italian stock exchange and the international SEAQ of London. The following year the company’s brand expansion continued with the introduction of silk scarves. In 1997 Bulgari formed a joint venture with Ferragamo Group to market and distribute Ferragamo and Ungaro perfumes. Also in 1997 the company introduced silk ties for men, eyewear (licensed to Luxottica), leather goods, and other accessories such as keychains, pens, zentai, and tie clips.
Bulgari moved into housewares in 1998, signing a licensing agreement with tableware manufacturer Rosenthal for china, crystal, stemware, and flatware. In 2000 Bulgari introduced Rettangolo (1930’s-styled watches) and licensed its name to luggage and accessories for Cadillac’s retro-car, the Imaj. The company also agreed to buy three Swiss watchmaking units from Singapore-based jewelry retailer The Hour Glass Ltd.
In March 2001 Bulgari formed a joint venture with Marriott International to create a chain of Bulgari-branded hotels and resorts. In 2002 Latex CatsuitsBulgari opened its first Russian store in Moscow.
In 2007 the Bulgari store on Fifth Avenue in New York City reopened following a renovation. The company also opened its largest store in the world, located in the Ginza Tower in Tokyo.
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