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Bvlgari jewelry is influenced by and faithful to its Mediterranean roots. It is individual, sophisticated and undeniably innovative.
Brief History of Bvlgari Jewelry
In a small village in Greece, the Boulgaris family were master silversmiths. When Sotirio Boulgaris immigrated to Rome, he sold his silver goods in the streets and in a Greek merchant’s shop. In five years, he opened his own shop, Italianized his name to Bulgari and became widely known for the exquisite craftsmanship and the vibrant color of his jewelry. He expanded his business with a chain of stores throughout Rome and became especially popular with tourists.
When Sotirio’s sons, Giorgio and Costantino, joined him in the business, they convinced him to focus on high-end jewelry. They sold the chain shops and opened one store that sold luxury goods from embossed silver pieces to gold and silver jewelry that followed French traditions and the new Art Deco designs. That store remains the company headquarters today.
Sotirio died in 1932, and his sons changed the company logo to “BVLGARI,” using the traditional Roman alphabet (V replacing U) to pay homage to the city where they and their jewelry flourished.
In the 1930s, the company set diamonds in platinum. In the 1940s, because of shortages brought about by World War II, they discontinued the use of precious gems and focused on yellow gold pieces. Postwar prosperity saw the creation of incredibly lavish settings of the most precious gems, many fashioned in platinum. Floral motifs and the en tremblant settings were especially popular. By the mid-1950s, daring combinations of vividly colored precious gems and smooth, domed-shaped cabochons became a Bvlgari hallmark.
When Giorgio’s sons, Gianni, Paolo and Nicola, joined the firm in 1967, they took it to greater-than-ever heights with influences that ranged from the Far East to Pop Art to the new roles of women in society. They introduced modular jewelry and used unconventional materials and a no-holds-barred creativity for ultra-sophisticated designs. In 1970, the brothers opened their first U.S. shop in New York City.
Gianni was CEO until the 1980s. Paolo was the artist. Nicola brought a game-changing design to the firm. He collected ancient coins and began using them in jewelry, the collection of “Gemme Nummarie” (“Coin Gems”). The beautifully aged coins set in highly polished metals are still coveted signature Bvlgari pieces.
In 2011, Bvlgari was acquired by LVMH (Louis Vuitton) for $6 billion with Paolo remaining as Chairman.
Vintage Bvlgari Jewelry Designers
The only designers that we know of are members of the Bvlgari family.
- Sotirio Boulgaris, founder of the business.
- Giorgio Bulgari, son of Sotirio who brought a French influence to the jewelry.
- Constantino Bulgari, son of Sotirio who incorporated classical themes that he found on ancient silver pieces and wrote the “Bible” on Italian silversmithing.
- Gianni Bulgari, eldest son of Giorgio, well-respected designer of Italian themes but also the chief executive of the company.
- Paolo Bulgari, middle son of Giorgio, the most artistic member of the family, known as “one of the world’s foremost jewelers.” He had the ability to incorporate the family’s traditional designs into his modern and innovative ideas and was a visionary in the use of gemstones.
- Nicola Bulgari, youngest son of Giorgio, designer of the “Coin Gems,” a signature collection of the company and one of the most popular.
Marks on Vintage Bvlgari Jewelry
- All genuine Bvlgari jewelry is stamped with the brand’s name, respective metal type and “MADE IN ITALY.”
- “BVLGARI BVLGARI” (evenly spaced and separated by two circles)
- “BVLGARI ROMA”
- “Fabrique en Suisse”
- “750” (which stands for 18K gold)
- Rings have the size on the inside of the band
- All marks are clean, evenly spaced and easily legible
Materials used in Vintage Bvlgari Jewelry
- 18K gold, platinum, silver and steel
- Ancient Roman coins
- Precious gems: diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires (esp. pale Sri Lankan sapphires)
- Semi-precious gems: pearls, turquoise, malachite, citrine, amethyst, tourmaline, hematite, coral
- Vividly colored cabochons that represent the domed cupolas of Rome
Most Collectible Vintage Bvlgari Jewelry
The colorful enamel bracelets are supremely well crafted with scales handmade from sheets of gold before being attached to each other at the core to create the coiled position. To wear, simply uncoil the bracelet and let it wrap around your wrist.
Many Serpenti bracelets have a watch concealed within the serpent’s head.
Necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings are part of the Moneta Collection, which is one of the most famous and beloved of Bvlgari signature lines. Ancient Roman coins are unaltered and set into metal mounts for a distinctive interaction of contrasts. The Moneta line has never been imitated by other jewelers.
The Parentesi line has been copied endlessly! Parentesi translates to “brackets” or “parenthesis.” The line was inspired by the interlocking design of Roman pavements and roads. Like the Moneta Collection, another homage to the Greek family’s adopted country. The modular jewelry is stylish and more affordable than other Bvlgari pieces. A beginning set includes a piece shaped like an hourglass, one shaped like brackets and one to fit into the cavity of the bracelet. Add as many pieces as you like, subtract as many.
How to Buy Vintage Bvlgari Jewelry
- Bvlgari jewelry will have some weight to it. Beware a lightweight piece.
- Beware a piece that is too inexpensive to be believed.
- Poorly cut, cloudy or abraded gemstones are not from Bvlgari.
- Discolored or faded metals are not from Bvlgari.
- Fake Serpenti bracelets do not have the flexibility of a genuine Bvlgari.
- If the Serpenti unwinds all the way or can lay totally flat off your wrist, it is not genuine.
- When shopping online, look for clear photos of makers marks and hallmarks.
Shopping Online for Vintage Bvlgari Jewelry
You must find reputable jewelers with knowledge of fine jewels and a good return policy. Read customer reviews to make sure that people have been satisfied with the service they have received.
I like to shop on both Etsy and eBay for my vintage jewelry collections. They are both wonderful marketplaces for finding vintage jewelry and supporting small businesses. Have a look at our article on the best eBay shops for buying vintage fine jewelry to see a list of our vetted sellers!
For shopping on Etsy, the shop The Vintage Jeweller GB has a nice selection of Bvglari jewelry.
There are vintage Bvlgari pieces available though it might take some shopping around to find them. Just remember to check (and double-check) the vendor. The Bvlgari page on the Etsy site has a very nice selection of pieces, many that are not crazy expensive. Also, have a look on eBay for vintage Bvgari jewelry.