Friday, August 21, 2009


We are staying another day in Greece traveling to the province of Epirus.

We take in the sights of Parga Beach with the astonishing, pristine waters of the Ionian Sea and partake in the local waterside amenities.

We then drive a short distance to view the Nekromanteio Ruins in Acheron.

Greece is also the home of featured jewelry designer Sotirios Boulgaris.

I had expected a trip to Italy for today's feature; however, upon researching the iconic Italy-based brand, I learned that its founder is actually Greek!

The progeny of silversmiths, in 1879 Boulgaris put his silversmithing skills to the test by moving to Rome, Italy and selling his handmade, silver objects on the steps of the Villa Medici.

The Villa Medici housed the French Academy, an institution populated with French artists who were recipients of a prestigious, Roman scholarship. The academy's adherence to certain artistic disciplines would influence Boulgaris' early designs.

A Greek merchant living in Rome was impressed with Boulgaris' earnestness and allowed him to showcase his distinctive, silver carvings in the window of his shop. Within 15 years, Boulgaris' unique ornaments became very popular earning him enough money to open his own store.

Always looking ahead, he continued to improve his skills and within 11 years, he would move his store to the location where it remains to this day: Via dei Condotti 10.

In an interesting bit of trivia, he initially named the store for a Charles Dickens novel, "Old Curiosity Shop" in the hope to attract tourists from Britain and North America.

With a decrease in clientele during the summer months and an increased, more versatile inventory at his disposal, for a time Boulgaris focused energy on wrangling potential customers staying in summer resorts outside of Rome. He focused on one area: St. Moritz in Switzerland. His decision proved lucrative as it allowed him to establish subsidiary stores managed by relatives.

Though enjoying his success in St. Moritz, Boulgaris recognized the importance of remaining attentive to his main store in Rome and he returned. Having involved his sons Giorgio and Constantino in the business--trained silversmiths as well--the company saw the addition of brilliant gemstones to its jewelry like diamonds, sapphires, and topaz.

After their father's death in 1934, Giorgio and Constantino renovated the Rome store and after almost three decades, renamed the store for the senior Boulgaris (the Roman spelling being Bvlgari).

Some twenty years after World War II, Bvlgari's design approach shifted from the French Academy's strict standard to its distinctive blend of Italian and Grecian aesthetics for which the company is world-renowned.

The brand's fine jewelry ranges from elegant gold bracelets, gold disc necklaces, and dog tag necklaces to lavish bib necklaces with hundreds of carats worth of precious gemstones, as well as beautiful bridal jewelry. In addition, the company implements stainless steel, sterling silver, and 18-karat yellow, white, and pink gold in its designs.

By the 1970s, the brand gained worldwide recognition with stores in Monte Carlo, Geneva, Paris, and New York; while also adding a watch collection to its list of luxury items that are manufactured in Switzerland.

Among its innovative luxury watch designs is the Diagono Professional Scuba Chrono. Implementing ideas from professional divers, the watch features anti-reflective glass, clear dial indicators, and luminescent markers.

In the last 25 years, the progressive, innovative company has seen a number of milestones. Near the mid-80s, Sotirios' grandsons, Paolo and Nicola, assumed administrative positions of Chairman and Vice-Chairman, while their nephew, Francesco Trapani, was elected Chief Executive Officer.

In the 90s--and therafter--the brand diversified its products with the inclusion of cologne, eye wear, leather goods, and silk products. The jewelry house addressed the issue of conflict diamonds by purchasing "polished" diamonds from suppliers who abide by the Kimberley Process, and provide a Kimberley Process Certificate.

Without question, this astounding brand is a bona fide member of the century-plus powerhouse club alongside Van Cleef & Arpels (France), Cartier (France), Tiffany & Co. (USA), and Carrera y Carrera (Spain). 
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Alegra Pendant with Colored Gemstones
Photo 2 (bottom right): Mulit-Gemstone Bib Necklace set in 18-Karat Yellow Gold
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