Sotirios Voulgaris: The Greek Creator of Bulgari

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Bulgari, popularly known as BVLGARI in the fashion world, is a global luxury brand known for its high-end jewellery, watches, fragrances, accessories, and leather products.

Nobody could have predicted that the small jewellery shop founded in Rome in 1884 by a hardworking Greek silversmith named Sotirios Voulgaris would become one of the most well-known multinational brands in the world. The creator of Bulgari, hailed from Epirus, Greece his name was Sotirios Voulgaris (1857-1932).

Sotirios was born on March 18, 1857 in Paramythia of Epirus, Greece. He began his career as a jeweller in the small village of Kalarites. His parents were George Voulgaris and Eleni Strougaris. Father and son travelled between Greece and Albania to sell their creations. 

The cold and harsh Albanian winters were very hard on them. Optimism was their only bread and butter. His father said to him “Let’s go my son, let’s leave this country and let’s look for a land where we can work in peace and create our own hope.”

In 1888, Sotirios agreed to an arranged marriage with Elena Bazios, the young daughter of Sotirios parents neighbours on the island of Corfu in Greece. After their wedding, the couple settled in Rome. A year later their first son Konstantino was born, followed by Giorgio and four other children.

See the life of Sotirios Voulgaris with a beautiful historic tribute video to the founder from Bulgari:

Sotiris Voulgaris was the only one of the family’s eleven children to survive and carry on the family heritage. His grandfather instilled in him a love for jewellery and ambition to succeed.

Of the eleven children of the family, Sotiris Voulgaris was the only one who survived and managed to continue the family tradition. His grandpa Constantine, a street trader in Epirus villages, instilled in him a passion for jewellery. Sotiris inherited his father’s aptitude for making jewellery, and he and his father started a jewellery shop in Paramythia.

 

The Turks were causing trouble in Paramythia and other communities in the region at the time. The Bulgari family was obliged to relocate to Corfu and later to Naples, Italy, due to the constant burning of the village and severe damage to the shop.

The family launched their first gold jewellery store in Naples. For their precious jewellery, city crime was a serious issue. They were forced to close after several burglaries.

Sotirios Voulgaris and his family relocated to Rome in 1881. He launched his company and built his second shop in Via Sistina three years later, in 1884. Bulgari’s new flagship store at Via dei Condotti, which he opened in 1905 with the help of his two sons, Constantino (1889–1973) and Giorgio (1890–1966), replaced the store in Via Sistina.

Giorgio’s son Gianni took over as co-chief executive with his cousin Marina after his father’s death in 1966. During the early 1970s, he served as chairman and CEO of Bulgari. Bulgari’s first worldwide outlets were opened in the 1970s in New York City, Paris, Geneva, and Monte Carlo.

Paolo and Nicola Bulgari, Sotirio’s grandsons, were named Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the firm in 1984, and nephew Francesco Trapani was named CEO. With the launch of the Bulgari perfume brand in the early 1990s, Trapani’s objective to diversify the company began. Under Francesco’s leadership, the company has established itself as a globally recognised luxury goods brand.

The company was listed on the Borsa Italiana in 1995 and had a 150% revenue growth between the year of 1997 to 2003. 

On March 6, 2011, the French luxury group Louis Vitton announced that it would buy Bulgari for €4.3 billion ($6.01 billion), the highest price it had ever paid for any other company.

Furthermore, the Bulgari family traded their 50.4 percent controlling stake in LVMH in return for a 3% stake in the company, making them the second-largest family shareholder in LVMH behind the Arnaults.

Today (according to data provided by Adwired) the Greek founded luxury brand Bulgari is valued at 7.49 billion Euros ($8.8 billion US) – January 1, 2021.

 

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