Before entering the unique studio for luxury articles, you may gasp at the snow-capped majesty of the Vitosha Mountains.
Once you are inside, where they fashion unique items using classical technology, you will notice something else: the feeling of peace and happiness in the family that greets you.
Zografov & Son is a family company: Nikolay Zografov, his wife, Titsiana and their son Lyubomir with his wife Boryana. The whole family has an enthusiastic and somewhat inpatient air; typical of people who do what they love and who have never thought that it could be any other way.
A total of five people work in the studio. They design, create, certify and pack luxury vessels and gifts made of precious metals and selected wood from all around the world.
The foundations of the family business were laid in 1991 with the desire to create items somewhere between wrought copper and jewellery, says Nikolay, who comes from an old craftsman family with roots in Greece. The beginning proved to be rather difficult.
Today, the company is well-known among Bulgarian lovers of unique handmade objects and among the protocol departments of the state administrations, because their works are so suitable presents for important guests.
Lyubomir mentioned that their products are owned by people like Bill Clinton, Vladimir Putin, the Kazakh President Nazarbayev, the Prince of Monaco, the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bulgarian former presidents, high-level priests from all over the country, a Jordanian Sheikh, whose name must be kept secret - and the family of the former tsar and Prime Minister, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
Clients are important to the image of any company, but the Zografovs are not the kind of people to boast. We believe true passion lies in the DNA of every real craftsman.
This is how Lyubomir describes it:
'Every item we make bears our seal. In 100-200 years’ time, that seal will still be there. Our name will live on in the future and will be connected with something beautiful and unique.'
It is this kind of immortality, transcending evil and transience, which explains the passion of the true craftsman.
To create a unique emotion for your nearest and dearest or to reward your business partner, the desire to leave something for your children, for their children, even for people in hundreds of years, is an irreplaceable feeling and a strong motivation.
The silver and gold-plated phiales, jugs and glasses from the Rogozen treasure, the golden mask of the Dalakova mound, the crown, the kylix and the jugs from Golyama Kosmatka inspire the family and they create their own souvenir replicas.
Zografov & Son have signed copyright contracts with museums where treasures are kept, which entitle them to reproduce the originals in a creative manner. 'We do not make copies - we make objects that are real; that can be used in everyday life', say the artists.
It turns out that quite a few people would like to feel the emotion that guided the hands and minds of the ancient Thracian craftsmen. There is keen interest from abroad as well as within Bulgaria.
'Sometimes, our clients learn about us from our seal at the bottom of each item. For example, a man from the Netherlands ordered gold objects from us online - a wreath and a kylix for his parents' golden wedding anniversary (an interesting story that they promised to share with me next time we meet) - a replica of the Golyama Kosmatka wreath which is unique in the world, says Titsiana.
She also showed us exquisite silver jugs with gold-plated elements that resemble those of the Rogozen treasure. 'Our vessels are made of sheet material, following a technology close to the one used by ancient craftsmen, which will allow them to be used for millennia.'
Depending on the order, the company can produce either silver-coated or solid silverware. The object's value can increase many times; it can be used for hundreds of years, it may serve as an investment or even be used for healing purposes, as silver has a proven impact in this area.
It is extremely difficult and time-consuming to work with noble metals, especially with solid silver. The production of just one vessel can take anything from 4 to 15 days, depending on the material used and the complexity of the workmanship.
Yet, the studio can produce up to 200 items a month - as was the case with the creation of sets to mark the European Presidency of Bulgaria. It meant freezing other orders and working from early morning to late at night. The order also included the manual production of the expensive boxes with inserts, as well as metal plaques with a handwritten message - a Zografov trademark personal gesture to each client.
Finally, each item receives a certificate, and the box is sealed with an excise stamp.
In view of the materials used, the exceptional craftsmanship and the overall uniqueness of the objects, Zografov & Son is definitely a luxury brand. Lubomir admitted that there are clients who merely want to have a unique object to remind them of a special occasion in life - a wedding, a baptism or a significant birthday.
Whether the gifts are for themselves, for their colleagues, loved ones, or are to be presented on official occasions to especially-important people - these items are memories and emotions. 'Our clients always start from this point of view. Because these are not everyday objects and, even if they were, they would be part of an extraordinary lifestyle...'
Nikolay, in turn, would like it if people appreciated handmade crafts more and were aware that, in many cases, their precious metal object could outlive them. 'Few people appreciate that the unique craftsmanship and the spirit the artist puts into it can last forever', he says. ‘As they get older, people begin to realise that life may be short, but such objects will remain... And so we write, on the bottoms of the silver cups, messages to their child or grandchild... '
To my question as to whether they have competition in the country, the Zografovs reply in unison, 'None in Bulgaria.'
Who are they competing with then? 'We are competing with ourselves, and our goal is to make better and better products.'
If you have the chance to visit the museum in Vratsa, you will come upon an incredible sight: dozens of small dishes, placed in special chambers, as if telling you their own story. Their splendid detail sparkles in the dark, and we can only marvel at how they were made by the ancient craftsmen
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We at 'Zografov & Son' offer you luxurious gifts, full of spirit, emotion and sentiment which, we promise you, cannot be found anywhere else! CHOOSE A PRECIOUS GIFT What gift to choose for a 50th birthday?
Майсторските изработки на „Зографов и син“ от злато, сребро и екзотична дървесина се предават от поколения от Андреа Пунчева
Знаете ли, че българските археолози наричат откритието на Рогозенското съкровище “Находката на века”. Една от причините е, че е най-голямото, намирано у нас, дори казват и в Европа.
Когато преди 26 години Николай Зографов решава да се посвети на своето фино изкуство, той не предполага, че след години творенията му ще принадлежат на президенти, дипломати, аристократи, артисти и известни личности от цял свят. Талантливите му ръце извайват съвършени композиции от благородни метали и екзотична дървесина, превръщайки предметите в истински произведения на изкуството.