October found us thinking through people stories. We felt like writing something really fascinating, which is why we decided to post about a renowned designer of our area, Sotirio Bulgari. Most of us know the Bulgari House as a leading jewellery Italian brand. Few people are aware of the evocative story behind the fabulous House, the pioneer who made a dream come true.
Sotirio Bulgari was born in 1857 in Kalarrytes, a magnificent village of the mountainous and rough complex of villages Tzoumerka in Epirus. Kallarytes had been the centre of silversmiths for a very long time.
19th century jewellery, part of the local traditional women’s costum.
Processing silver in the area was the main folk art. The creation of jewellery along with religious masterpieces and decorative utensils was one of the most significant trading sources for the locals for centuries.
19th century jewellery from Kalarrytes
But, at the time of 1850, the area of Epirus was still under the Ottoman rule. The wealth and prosperity of the past years were gone. The damages of the Greek Revolution that had started in 1821 succeeded one another, allowing poverty to spread. Many families are forced to immigrate in order to survive, towards the “sun of the foreign lands” as they used to say.
Sotirio Bulgari Collection
Among them, was Sotirio Bulgari, Σωτήριος Βούλγαρης in Greek, a 22 year old young man. Sotirio was the only child of the eleven children of the family that survived. His grandfather Konstantino and father Giorgo were craftsmen of silver, well known for their talent and exquisite pieces.
Sotirio Bulgari. The Old Curiosity Shop looks just like some jewellery, antique stores in Ioannina.
Sotirio had to leave Epirus. Knowing his way as a silversmith, he decided to head to Brindisi port in Italy. He carried a burden on his back; a huge cultural background, the art of his ancestors, as immigrating alone to a foreign country.
The first period in Brindisi was not a happy one. Sotirio manufactured mainly decorative art pieces that did not apply to the audience. He moved to Napoli in search of better luck but things didn’t work out for him there neither. His path led him to the building of the French Academy in Rome as an outdoors salesman. His work is starting to receive attention.
A local Greek merchant sees through his distinguishing talent and offers him an angle in one of his windows to feature Sotirio’s jewellery, in Via Sistina. The news soon spread among the jewellery lovers of Rome and within only five years Sotirio had the means to open his own store in 1884 of “Artistic Silverware, Antiquitè, Curiositè, Bijoux” which he then moved to Via dei Condotti 10 in 1905 as he wanted to draw the attention of British and American visitors touring. He did it with great success and names his store after a Dickens novel, the “Old Curiosity Shop”. There, still stands the glamorous, sophisticated Bulgari Boutique.
Bulgari Boutique, Via dei Condotti
The rest is history…hard work, patience and talent paid off. His jewels that combined modern elegance with the classic splendor of traditional elements were thought to be of significant excellence among the secular circles. Sotirio was a pioneer of taste, he saw through all the changing trends and succeeded in having amazing celebrities adoring his jewellery. Among them were Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor. In 1932 where Sotiorio’s sons, Konstantino and Giorgo (named after their ancestors are it’s used in Greece) took over the company, there was a new starting point for the Bulgari House.
Celebrities wearing Bulgari
Today the family keeps close to its epirotic roots, visiting and offering to the community. As I closure, I’d like to say that we’re inspired by the virtuous Sotirio Bulgari, a man who made it on his own and did not give up when things were rough. An artist who followed the sun of foreign lands…
Thanks for reading!
The Team@ SilverTownArt Greek Jewelry