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Zolotas


Zolotas (Est. 1895) is a Greek jewelry house that, from its beginnings more than 100 years ago, has maintained the ancient tradition of Greek goldsmiths, as well as the Greek aesthetic and cultural spirit. Established in 1895, at the foot of the Acropolis, by Efthimios Zolotas, the House of Zolotas quickly emerged as the jewelry of choice for the Athenian elite.

When the 21-year-old son of merchants from Spercheiada, Lamia, laid the first stone of what would soon become the most historic jewelry house in Greece, he had already gained experience Paris ateliers. Efthimios returned home determined to use what he had learned to start his own business. In doing so he wanted to create a jewelry house that combined the traditions and style of his homeland with Parisian standards of craftsmanship.

Its immediate success inspired the implementation of bigger plans. Efthimios decides to add to his store specialized goldsmith artists. Sharing his knowledge with them, he created a real apprentice school that soon became the best performing school of its time with a signature authentic style. He was soon able to open his own workshop adjacent to the store. By this time his work had come to the attention of the Greek Royal family and in 1910 he created a series of jewels for them that they wore to the coronation of England’s King George V.

In 1904 he married Konstantina Zolotas, a young woman with a broad education. In 1905 they had a son, Xenofon, who continued his father’s dream. Konstantina wanted to steer their son toward erudition and scientific knowledge and that prevailed over her husband’s desire to bequeath his art to his son.

At age 24, Xenofon Zolotas was appointed Professor in Financial Law at the University of Thessaloniki. Professor Zolotas became more than a central figure of the country’s economic and political life. He also undertook the management of the Bank of Greece for more than 25 years and took office as Prime Minister in 1990. He matured into a man of rare education with an impressive knowledge of Greek literature and deep vision of Hellenism.

However, Xenofon Zolotas did not let his passion for jewelry, infused by his father, fade away. He became deeply involved in his father's business. In the late 1950s, he decided to make the Zolotas trademark equal to the most famous French and American firms. According to him, goldsmith art ought to transform into a mission to globally promote the Greek spirit. It was an inspiration that came directly from his Greek cultural heritage and merged with a modern style.

Together with his wife, Kallirhoe, a prominent member of New York’s Greek aristocracy who became his muse, he managed to identify the House of Zolotas with the glory of Hellenism by cooperating with the archaeological museums of Greece at the beginning of the 1960s.

All legendary patterns, from the Lions of Mycenae and the Star of Vergina to the gold-trimmed Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna, were returned to life and worn by well-known global personalities. Throughout the 60s, the Zolotas House’s gold threads embraced women’s wrists, and the winged figures of its jewelry transformed them into modern goddesses. The list of names charmed by Zolotas creations were a who’s who of the era and included Aristotle Onassis, Jacqueline Kennedy, Romy Schneider, Elizabeth Taylor, and Maria Callas.

The rising artist, Paloma Picasso, daughter of the great Pablo, designed a limited collection of unique necklaces and bracelets in the shape of daisy petals and bracelets with the faces of the moon for the House. The young creator’s inspiration meshed perfectly with the traditional techniques of the House’s skilled goldsmiths that led to exciting results: these were the first, vivid jewelry designs of Paloma Picasso and it began a new era for the House of Zolotas.

In the early 70s, the already world famous House established itself in Paris. Great artists coming from different disciplines were inspired by the Greek jeweler’s philosophy and shared his vision.

Visual Arts enthusiastically responded to this new style with the "magnetic jewel," a special creation of the great Greek sculptor, Takis. These were pearls that changed position according to body temperature. There were also the elegant "lucky charms" of the acclaimed painter Alekos Fasianos.

Another flagship collaboration of this period that added to the House’s collections were the subtle creations of the sculptor, Claude Lalanne. The color of gold was poured on elegant surfaces of laurel leaves which were then transformed into long necklaces, accompanied by belts and decorated gold chains for ankles.

The House entered into a cooperative arrangement with New York designer Ronald McNamer in the late 1970s. McNamer, who was originally designing for Tiffany's, accepted the invitation to design a new collection for Zolotas. He traveled to Greece and was immediately charmed by the traditional techniques of the Zolotas artists and their unique aesthetic of Greek patterns.

Perfectly capturing the House’s vision, McNamer soon became among its strongest supporters. With daily visits to the House as well as to other collections and museums, McNamer learned, taught, and became a designer-goldsmith artist, participating in all stages of jewelry making. He soon became the "soul" of the Zolotas House.

Concentrating on volume and shape, the American designer invented jewelry inspired by architectural motifs based on three architectural orders of ancient Greece: the Doric, the Ionian and the Corinthian. The meander and spiral emerged with a modern plasticity, adjusting ancient motifs to brilliant creations in 22 KT gold, often hand-hammered.

Ronald McNamer’s passion for the theater - in New York he was one of the most famous stage costume and jewelry designers – was further inspired by his boundless interest in ancient Greek drama. The jewelry he designed for the Greek tragedienne Irini Pappa for her Shakespearean role as Cleopatra matched her triumphant performances in 1979.

The 21st century brought new challenges to the House. Globalization also brought new inspirations as contemporary jewelry demonstrated a need for innovative features. In response to these challenges, the Zolotas’ goldsmith artists created jewelry that introduced new shapes while remaining faithful to the House’s tradition. Modern collections like Entasis, with jewelry inspired by Doric architecture, in 18KT matte gold, with or without diamonds, continued to embody timeless techniques and its aesthetic heritage.

In 2009, a collaboration with the sculptress Nisa Chevènement, marked a stylistic evolution in the Zolotas collections. The elongated anthropomorphic figures of Chevènement united and danced in a circle, or stood like other Cycladic statues. This limited jewelry collection captured the timeless dimension of Greek civilization.

Maintaining the family character has been part of the House’s success. In 2009 Georges Papalexis joined Zolotas as its new artistic director after having honed his jeweler expertise in Paris. Well aware of the brand's stylistic force and its frenetic creativity, he undertook recreating its singular identity. He brought back iconic codes and favored the thematic inspirations based on architecture. Diamonds prevailed in his new collections of yellow, white, grey or pink gold.

Since the 1950s, ancient goldsmith techniques have been present from Zolotas’ ateliers including the art of hand-hammering mainly used on hand shaped golden jewels. The goldsmith artist places the metal onto a smooth surface and then "beats" it with a small hammer with a rounded edge until it creates a ripple effect. The technique of granulation, in which small spheres of gold are fused onto metal surfaces to create beautiful patterns, and the technique of filigree, where fine wires of gold are woven together to give a greater volume to the jewels, are applied in a modern expressive way.

The House’s collections include Heritage, a revival of mythical jewelry from ancient Greece, Classics comprised of timeless hand hammered luxury in 22KT Gold, Byzance that showcases the glamour of the Byzantine Empire, Snake Lace, hand woven dazzling braids in gold plus Daisy, New Spirits, Sphinx & Athena, Dorian, Cubic, Princess of the Mediterranean, Leather Bracelets, Couture, Love Potion, and Helios which presents precious sunrays in gold

The collections variously offer rings, pendants, earrings bracelets, necklaces, and crosses. Zolotas is also known for its Bridal collection of solitaire rings and wedding bands.

In October 2019, Zolotas introduced its good-luck charm collection for 2020 named Zeus. It was presented to the Greek media at the House’s flagship store in Athens. The ZEUS 2020 Charm Collection comes in pendants, bracelets and earrings, made in silver, silver gold plated or gold, enhanced with precious stones.

Today, Zolotas is a brand that continues to use iconic motifs that keep it in the vanguard of fine jewelry design. From rings to necklaces, bracelets and earrings, Zolotas jewelry is worn everywhere around the world and appreciated by true jewelry connoisseurs.

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