The Hellenic Wave
Nine Greek Jewelry Designers You Should Know
It’s been said that Greece is the most magical place on Earth. With its sun-bleached ruins, miles of aquamarine coastline and scrumptious cuisine, Greece is a hotbed of knowledge, adventure and limitless pleasure. Nine fine jewelry designers who share an identity with this fascinating country have now come together in a creative alliance, believing in the power of numbers to best present to the world their unique imaginative voice and individual aesthetic. Here, then, are the Contemporary Greek Designers.

For Parisian born Michael Pelamidis, founder of Aparté Jewellery, his passion for jewelry design began when his grandmother took him to a Boucheron exhibit at the Musée Jacquemart-André and he saw jewelry drawings for the first time. He studied for six years at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Joaillerie De Paris in the 1990s and began designing professionally during this time for Parisian companies.

Inspired by architecture, art, history, nature and his dreams, as well as by women whom he admires, Pelamidis characterizes his jewelry as expressing a sense of emotion, a continuous bimorphic change. “I create forms that are dynamic and flowing rather than static,” Pelamidis says. “I also desire that the jewelry becomes a vital part of the human body and penetrates the environmental core of the person who wears it.”

Pelamidis also defines his work as low profile with a dose of hysteria, classic yet avant-garde. A ring from his Lithic collection expresses this completely. It juxtaposes polished yellow gold and hewn quartz in a free-form design that appears as if a rocky peak is elegantly forming from the fingers. The piece at once captivates with its conflict between smooth and rough, worked and natural. As such, it fully embodies one of the things Pelamidis loves about designing jewelry: creating a surprise with contradictions and unexpected combinations.

  • 2014: 2nd Prize, “A Jewel Made in Greece” Conceptual Exhibition
  • 1996: 1st Prize, National Competition for Jewellery Design in Greece
  • 1995: Georges et Jacques Lenfant Award for Best Jeweler in France

Born in Athens, Greece, and thus naturally influenced by the masterworks of its ancient civilization, it’s no wonder Christina Soubli was inspired to design jewelry for “women who like wearing small, precious pieces of art to express their personality.” She started designing jewelry as a little girl, imagining parts of her grandmother’s chandelier as earrings; then sought formal training at Central Saint Martins in London in the 1990s.

What followed were jewelry collections that aim to embrace, follow and act as a natural extension of the female form, such as the Nests collection, which landed Soubli at Harvey Nichols and the Electrum Gallery in London. Composed mainly of 22-karat yellow gold and gemstone rings that twist and turn around the shape of the finger, the collection explores and coheres to the body’s natural beauty, which is of paramount importance to Soubli. “I am a lover of genuine and harmonious beauty,” she says. “It’s something that drives every piece of jewelry I create.”

What Soubli also says is unique about her jewelry is that it blends classic forms with contemporary, and often surprising, twists. Her Soulmates collection, for instance, includes necklaces that suspend clear blown glass vessels in circular shapes topped with embellishments of yellow gold, moonstone, red coral, pearl, vesonite and smoky quartz. They appear light as air and cleanly designed, void of exaggeration and utterly versatile, personifying Soubli’s belief that all women return to classic pieces no matter how fashionable they are.
  • 2014: Visitor’s Choice, “A Jewel Made in Greece” Conceptual Exhibition
  • Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths Award

Although a globetrotter at heart, Ileana Makri was born in Greece and still resides there.  After receiving a degree in business administration, she decided to follow her true passion of designing jewelry, studying at the Gemological Institute of America.

In 1987, Makri ventured into retail, opening her first store in Athens called Mageia, which features an eclectic assortment of international art, fashion and jewelry. In 1996, she launched her signature fine jewelry line at the store, which was instantly picked up by Barneys New York, catapulting her career.

Makri travels extensively for design inspiration, which allows her to celebrate different cultures and landscapes within her collections. She also draws inspiration from symbols that have a universal appeal, particularly the evil eye, which serves for some as protection against negative forces.

Her collections have an irresistible, feminine appeal, stamped by Makri’s creativity and refined aesthetic, as well as astounding attention to detail and use of old-world craftsmanship. The underlying “rock chic” approach to the designs makes the jewelry simultaneously contemporary and timeless. In her own words, Makri creates “jewelry for no special occasion.”

Makri is also known for her fine jewelry collaborations with London-based fashion designer Marios Schwab. She has also collaborated with fashion brand The Row, by Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen. Other high-profile jewelry clients include Courtney Cox, Debra Messing, Faith Hill, Heidi Klum, Jennifer Lopez, Lenny Kravitz, Rita Wilson and Uma Thurman.

With the launch of her IAM brand, Makri is now making her mark in fashion jewelry. The designs feature the same craftsmanship and attention to detail as her fine jewelry, but with materials such as sterling silver and bronze, which not only appeal to a wider range of consumers, but also give Makri’s existing clients an alternate look and feel.

Born in Greece and a graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pa., where he studied jewelry and metalsmithing, Maximos Zachariadis of Maximos started out showing his unique illustrations and compositions at art exhibitions worldwide before dedicating his time to jewelry design in 1989.

Drawing his inspiration from nature, architecture and the inherent beauty of the materials, Zachariadis approaches each jewelry design as a piece of art, using clean, geometric lines to form a complex idea, and then finishing it to perfection. His Stahia collection, which incorporates his favorite materials to work with—sterling silver and diamonds—conveys this with its effective use of the ordinary chain turned into a symbol of wheat, a grain Zachariadis finds beautiful, “a symbol of fruitfulness and fertility.” The connected series of links—some decorated with diamonds or colored gemstones—are bold, powerful and ultimately glamorous.

Along with his collections, Zachariadis has created exclusive jewels for prestigious fashion houses and jewelry stores, private galleries, museums and companies such as Coca Cola and L’Oreal, as well as for private owners. He is currently participating in a group of contemporary jewelry designers called “A Jewel Made in Greece,” which mainly aims to promote Greek jewelry abroad. His goal is to create 10 pieces of jewelry a year and to exhibit them in five cities across the globe.

It’s difficult to comprehend that with the exception of a few lessons in wax carving, Myrto Anastasopoulou is mostly self-taught in jewelry design. Her captivating pieces have been brought to life using YouTube videos and books, observing metalsmiths at the bench and naturally through trial and error.

But for Anastasopoulou, jewelry design is much more than just the mechanics of the craft. It’s a very personal affair. “The visual references I become attracted to form a sort of internal visual inventory that becomes filtered through my own feelings and perceptions and eventually takes form in a piece of jewelry,” Anastasopoulou says.

Those visual references include such things as the richness and integrity of form found in nature, geometry, sculpture and the fascinating people for whom she would like to design. But regardless of inspiration, what sets Anastasopoulou apart is the sculptural execution of her pieces. Observe her Angel ring from the Iliodoron Collection. With its black rhodium-plated silver “wings” intricately crafted to wrap around the finger, the piece is a work of art with the body as canvas.

This is, in fact, what drew Anastasopoulou to designing jewelry: its potential as a wearable form of art, designed to satisfy one’s desire to adorn the body, that requires a very refined and technically demanding execution. As such, Anastasopoulou works to exhaust the infinite possibilities of each image or shape she becomes attracted to. “I follow a journey where shapes and forms continually reinvent themselves in evolving creativity,” she says. “One creation gives birth to the next.”

  • 1st People’s Choice Award, “A Jewel Made in Greece” Conceptual Exhibition
  • Chosen as one of 10 designers in the prestigious New Designer Gallery at the 2014 Jewelers of America New York Summer Show

Growing up in a family with two renowned archeologists and spending her childhood summers on excavations, German-born Polina Sapouna Ellis was destined for a life surrounded by magnificent things. She received a doctorate in Classical Archaeology from the University of Heidelberg in Germany, where she also studied History of Arts. Her life among treasures of ancient art, as well as her own need to create, led her to painting, studying at the ateliers of famous Greek painters such as Pavlos Samios. The two disciplines ultimately led her to her true passion, designing jewelry, which she began professionally around 2009.

Having traveled through all the archaeological sites in Greece, Ellis’ jewelry is mostly inspired by the design styles of ancient Greece, yet with both modern and futuristic elements. Her Dorian collection, for instance, pays homage to the austere simplicity of the Doric order architecture of ancient Greece with its resemblance to Doric columns, while the Antithesis collection takes inspiration from the ancient Greek concept of Symmetria, meaning a sense of harmonious proportion and balance. The collection offers a variety of pieces—including the trendy full- and double-finger rings—featuring geometric shapes of ancient Greek art set opposite each other.

Ellis also wants her jewelry to be dynamic and transformable at times, converting to accommodate a woman’s every mood. A limited-edition ring from the Ichthys collection portrays a fish jumping over a wave handcrafted from rhodium-plated silver and multicolored diamonds. The fish and wave separate into two different rings, producing a unique ambience, simultaneously impacting and accommodating both the body and soul of those wearing it.

A small business based in Athens, Theodoros by Theodoros Savvopoulous only produces about eight unique pieces per year. Exceptional and rare gems with a history and provenance hold a special affection for Savvopoulous and inspire his work. They are celebrated in meticulously handcrafted pieces that feel as if they have magically arrived from a world of fantasy. One of his diamond rings, for instance, features a spectacular pear-shaped diamond nestled within vines created from tsavorites and white gold finished with green enamel, as if the juiciest grape waiting to be plucked.

Have you ever wanted to time travel? To spread your wings and fly, admiring the bold structure of the Art Deco 1920s, exploring the elegance of the 1950s and living the freedom of the 1960s? Eugenie Niarchos of Venyx World hasn’t invented a time machine. But she does travel through time with her jewelry creations: a balanced fusion of retro and futuristic aesthetics. Clean, uncluttered lines that redefine old and make it new. Small details inspire concepts and define a story that Niarchos skillfully recounts by translating the ordinary into something remarkable.

A descendant of Greek diamond traders, Yannis Sergakis of Yannis Sergakis Adornments was drawn into the alluring world of precious stones as a child, spending hours observing his uncles in their showroom. He started out collecting and trading jewels, until he realized that his true passion was creating jewelry. After studying gemology and design at the Gemological Institute of America, he started his own jewelry design business in 2003.

Numerous locations have inspired Sergakis’ work. His birthplace of Athens is a very special place for him, especially its center, near the Acropolis, which is full of life and vibrancy. There’s also the island of Hydra in the winter, which “always maintains its gracefulness,” as well as a grocery store on the island of Folegandros. “It is absolutely beautiful,” he says. But perhaps the greatest influence for Sergakis has been the design boom created as a result of post-World War II economic expansion. “It was a time when designers like Charles and Ray Eames came to the scene, and they are still contemporary today,” he says.

Like the Eames’ contributions to modern architecture and furniture, Sergakis creates practical statement pieces with a timeless quality. Inspired mainly by geometry and nature, the jewelry features an appealing mix of delicacy and edginess, a combination Sergakis says “was a very big challenge to accomplish.” This is certainly the case with his collection titled Charnières, which is incredibly feminine and dainty, yet cutting-edge with its strands of sparkling diamonds set within black gold. Ring and knuckle ring combinations made of yellow, rose and black gold with diamonds are especially interesting. Simple and bright, they are both powerful and dazzling.
Mattioli Italy
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