By  on March 19, 2007

After amping up product categories and sharpening retail strategies in Europe and Asia, Bulgari, the Roman jewelry firm, is expanding in the Americas.

The company, founded by Sotirio Bulgaris in the first half of the 19th century in Pindhos, Greece, then soon moving to Rome's Via Condotti, is marking the renewed U.S. focus this week with the opening of its redesigned Manhattan flagship on one of retail's most famous junctions: Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.

"New York is the most important market for us in the U.S.," said Francesco Trapani, the brand's chief executive officer. "We have a very aggressive plan for the next three to five years [in the U.S.]."

The brand has 15 stores in the U.S., including locations in San Francisco, Chicago, Honolulu and Las Vegas. There are plans to open 15 to 20 units within three to five years in several locales, including Boca Raton, Fla. In South America, stores are on tap in Bogota, Colombia; São Paolo, Brazil and Caracas, Venezuela. The company has 185 stores in 22 countries.

The 13,590-square-foot Manhattan store opened in 1989 and closed for renovations about a year ago. It is Bulgari's largest U.S. store.

The overhauled store has an additional 1,000 square feet of selling space because of a new mezzanine, and is lighter and breezier, with partitions and small vitrines inset in curving walls. The space exemplifies a contemporary aesthetic, with an angular backlit staircase made of copper-finished steel, Margaritelli wood floors, Roman-inspired Trani marble walls, chrome and glass cases and a 21-foot glass facade.

The 11 large vitrines that wrap around the Fifth Avenue and 57th Street sides will be filled starting next month with rare and antique jewelry, watches and precious evening bags from the company's vintage museum collection in celebration of the store opening.

The main floor will house one-of-a-kind high jewelry, day jewelry and watches. Retail prices range from $750 for a gold BZero1 ring to more than $5 million for a 28-carat ruby and diamond ring. Watch prices go from $1,400 to $150,000 for a limited edition watch with multiple complications.

The mezzanine and second floor will offer accessories, a segment of the business the brand is intent on growing. Last year, the firm's leather and exotic-skin handbags, eyewear, scarves, men's ties and small leather goods were merchandised together in Bulgari's first accessories-only stores. Bulgari handbags range from $700 to $6,000 and higher for special pieces.

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