Designer Jewellery, such as pieces by Bulgari, always attract a lot of interest at auction. Here Lyon & Turnbull Jewellery Specialist, Trevor Kyle, looks a little closer at the history of the Italian brand.
The now world renowned Bulgari Empire started from humble roots when the Greek born jeweler Sortirios Voulgaris left his home town in Corfu for Rome, where he first started his company in 1884. With the help of his two sons, Costantino and Giorgio, he quickly built a reputation as the go-to jeweler for the city’s rich and famous. Voulgaris’ use of the ‘V’ in his trademark BVLGARI is reference to both the Latin alphabet and his Greek surname, which translates into Bulgari in Italian. His early designs echoed his historic surroundings, calling to mind the designs of ancient Greek and Roman art and architecture. The bangle and earrings, lots 542 and 543 in November's sale, referenced the monumental columns which adorned the facades of ancient architecture, and was typical of Bulgari’s style in the 1970s.
The company rapidly gained momentum during the 20th century, Sotirios and his sons playing a key role in its expansion; however they remained relatively un-changed by their success. A story that has become synonymous with the Bulgaris is that of Costantino and his wife. During the Second World War and the raids on the Roman Ghettos, they opened their doors to three Jewish women, who had fled their own homes in fear, and hid them there for some time during 1943, risking their own arrest had they been found.
As the company grew, so did its style, Bulgari also became known for its rounded compact forms and generous smattering of coloured gems, distinguishing them from their competitors and establishing themselves and the luxury brand they are now known as. It is reported that the star of Hollywood screens, Elizabeth Taylor knew only one word in Italian, and it was of course ‘Bulgari’; which is in itself a testament to its name.