Family Jewels – Nicola Bulgari

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Mere hours before Bvlgari is about to be inducted into the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style, its Vice Chairman, Nicola Bulgari, is in a reflective mood. He rests inside the renowned jewelry brand’s opulent new location at 401 Rodeo Drive, casually chatting about the evening to come; he will soon be accepting the Walk of Style award on behalf of his brand, following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Missoni, Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, Cartier, Manolo Blahnik, Gianni and Donatella Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Herb Ritts and Tom Ford.

He stands, about to decamp to his hotel to rest before the evening’s festivities, when his gaze alights on a black and white book filled with iconic images of Rome.

 As the proprietor of three high-end hotels in London, Milan and Bali with a fourth slated to debut in Shanghai come 2015, the world traveler also knows what he prefers when staying overnight in a place that isn’t his home base of Rome.

“We are in this book not once, but twice!” the third generation Bulgari heir boasts, presenting the tome as if it was a trophy itself. “No other brand is presented here at all. It is an accomplishment.”

Considering that the luxe Italian jewelry line has been in existence since 1884 when it was founded by his grandfather, Greek silversmith Sotirio Bulgari, its established place in recent Roman history isn’t surprising. Nor should it come as any shock that luxury-loving Angelenos have also embraced the brand.

Everyone from the likes of Elizabeth Taylor – who first made the line popular in LA – to Julianne Moore, Jessica Alba, Kirsten Dunst and Drew Barrymore have all embraced Bvlgari’s baubles.

Bulgari, who admits to a long and deepseated affection for anything Hollywood, believes that his brand’s ability to modernize itself has guaranteed its continued success.

“This shop is an evolution. We’re breathing fresh life into it,” he maintains. “The décor, the coloring, the location: it’s all more appealing. It’s high-glitz and glamorous. It’s my formula, and it works.”

He adds, “You have to upgrade and make yourself contemporary. Our jewelry is contemporary but remains classic. It never wears out.”

The Bvlgari scion reiterates a similar statement on the bronze plaque that now resides on Rodeo Drive for all and sundry to see. “Style is an everlasting impression,” he writes “and jewelry is a passion that is passed through generations.”

To be certain, Bulgari’s taste veers toward the timeless. He owns a collection of more than 100 vintage American cars and, as a trustee of New York City’s Carnegie Hall, has affection for antiquarian jazz and classical pieces.

As the proprietor of three high-end hotels in London, Milan and Bali with a fourth slated to debut in Shanghai come 2015, the world traveler also knows what he prefers when staying overnight in a place that isn’t his home base of Rome.

“When I’m in Los Angeles, I love to stay at the Beverly Wilshire,” he confides. “It’s a very good luxury. It’s been there for a long time, and the staff know what they’re doing. It’s very comfortable, very classic. I like the design.”

He adds, “The Beverly Hills Hotel, the Hotel Bel-Air and Chateau Marmont are all wonderful, but the Beverly Wilshire is something special. It’s comfortable. Every time I come back, I feel like I’m at home.”

He pauses thoughtfully, continuing to gaze at the classic images of Bvlgari’s first boutique before looking up to take in the modernized splendor of Beverly Hills before him.

“That feeling is priceless,” he says. “And that’s luxury.”

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