Bulgari shines bright

Jacqueline Ann
August 4, 2005

The stress is on the “u” not on the “a” - búl-gah-ry - explains Cristina Maccianti, whose sweet modesty remains in tact despite being in charge of one of Via de’ Tornabuoni’s top luxury jewelry stores, Bulgari.

 

Although Bulgari’s heritage reaches back to Greek silversmiths, this brand is and always will be Italian.  Its story begins in the small village of Epirus, Greece, where Sotirio, the founder of the family, began his work as a silversmith.  In 1884, Sotirio immigrated to Italy and opened his first shop in Rome’s Via Sistina.  Not until 1905, however, did Sotirio, with the help of his sons Costantino and Giorgio, open Bulgari’s flagship store in Via Condotti.  The two brothers, sharing their father’s passion for precious stones and jewels, gradually took over their father’s role in the business.  In the 1970s, Bulgari’s international expansion was launched with the opening of their first overseas store in New York, and then in Paris, Geneva, and Monte Carlo.  Now, a century after its inception, Bulgari continues to keep it in the family with Paolo Bulgari and Nicola Bulgari, Chairman and Vice-Chairman, respectively, who, together with their nephew Francesco Trapani, Chief Executive Officer, manage the company’s current and future development.

 

Although not a Bulgari by birth, Cristina Maccianti has been happily managing their Florence store for the past five years.  Being a Florentine and having worked at another of Via de’ Tornabuoni’s luxury jewelry stores, La Nouvelle Vague, previously, Bulgari found in Cristina the perfect director for their Florentine branch.  She enjoys most the selling and public relations aspects of her job:  “I find new friendships and keep in touch with people; whether I’m offering a good place to rent a bike or something fun like that, I am here to help. This is my way of treating people here at Bulgari,” explains Cristina.  It’s obvious that Cristina would rather leave the administrative paperwork for someone else and enjoy her time interacting with clients all day long, if she could.

 

Currently renovating their 61/63r location, Bulgari has temporarily relocated a few stores down, settling next to Gucci until the end of November.  They hope to move back to an expanded space in time for a special Christmas re-opening.

 

When questioned about Bulgari’s competitors, Cristina replies, “There is a strong competition between the top three jewelry companies in the world:  Tiffany & Co., Bulgari, and Cartier.”  She believes that there is a bright future for Bulgari with the continual launching of new collections not only in jewelry, but also in watches, perfumes, and other accessories, such as handbags and eyewear. 

 

Cristina gave me a firsthand look at the newest Sapphire Flower jewelry collection, jewelry inspired by flowers and multi-coloured sapphires.  Not only did I find out that sapphires come in various colours, including yellow, purple, pink, green, and orange, but also that Bulgari scoured the world to find sapphires with similar consistencies to create this vivid collection of jewels.  I don’t know if I would have felt comfortable admiring and holding a beautifully designed and colourful necklace from the collection had I known, prior to picking it up, that it was valued at around 120 000 euros!

 

Although Cristina was unable to divulge the largest sale she’s made at the shop, we can just imagine that a customer purchasing a necklace, with earrings, a ring, and perhaps also a bracelet to match might spend over half a million euros in one sitting.  Now, you can imagine the security issues that arise as a result.

 

With such price-tags, how did Bulgari manage during the time after 9/11?  “After 9/11, no one travelled and it was hard on everyone,” Cristina says.  “The launch of the B.zero1 line, a collection that was not so expensive, gave Bulgari the opportunity to face this in the right way.”  For clarification purposes, “not so expensive” in Bulgari terms is anything less than 1000 euros.  The first creation in the B.zero1 line was the popular “must-have” ring that valued at 500 euros and up.  This ring, as well as the production of bracelets, pendants, watches, and earrings in this line boosted Bulgari’s sales during this difficult time.

 

With a focus on its human resources, technologically advanced computer database systems, and the launching of new collections, Bulgari “has a positive future,” concludes Cristina.  And I can’t seem to argue with that.

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