Ilias Lalaounis Legacy: a Retrospective

New Temporary Exhibition!

The Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum celebrates its Pearl Jubilee Anniversary and presents its new temporary exhibition

“Ilias Lalaounis Legacy: a Retrospective”

1st March – 31st October 2024


Exhibition Introductory Note:

The enduring influence of Lalaounis distinguishes him as one of the dominating figures of the 20th century western fine jewelry industry. During his 70-year career he became renowned as the man who revived Ancient Greek jewelry designs and techniques, with a modern twist, manipulating 18 and 22 karat gold for fashionable, chic, and magnificently handcrafted artifacts. In his workshop new tools were manufactured bequeathing new technologies with a pioneering approach for the fine jewelry industry. His choice of gems for micro sculptural forms designated him as the follower of Fabergé and Lalique.

Lalaounis was fortunate to be the third generation of goldsmiths and watch makers. The first generation, his grandfather  built city clocks. His father Ioannis Lalaounis and his uncle Euthymios Zolotas established the Zolotas jewelry and watch firm in 1895. When Ilias took over the administration and creative direction of the “ZOLOTAS” firm in 1940 he was still a student studying economics and law. His studies and career as a jeweler were violently paused by the World War II. He graduated with an economics degree but not from Law School. After the war, there was no market for fine jewelry. Thus, he took the time to study history, byzantine music, took design lessons, and draw on ancient civilizations available in libraries, museums, and archaeological sites. He traveled to commercial centers for jewelry in Europe and learned about new machinery, tools and production methods.

Lalaounis studied art history and enjoyed designing, but mostly creating jewelry for independent women. His theory on creating two-dimensional jewelry, led him to a style unprecedented and recognizable worldwide. His eponymous stores worldwide following blockbuster exhibitions from the Middle East to the Far East, north America and northwest Europe left an enormous archive that justifies his oeuvre. He was loyal to his colleagues, clients, and admirers, for he supervised the manufacturing of thousands of his designs annually, reaching more than 18.000 original works.

After World War II, he interacted with entrepreneurs, as well as with the artistic and intellectual community of Europe. He spent time and shared his ideas with renowned individuals, affiliated to his work, such as masters in the fine arts, fashion designers, choreographers, film producers, he was able to acquire a knowhow which served to organize his marketing skills and promote his work in a unique fashion. The Press adored him, since he was bespoken, and publicized his collections with passion. Newspapers columnists from local and international press besought interviews for the new collections, his ideas on contemporary jewelry art and captured the reaction of the public to his astonishing inspirations on archaeology, contemporary social and environmental issues, and technological innovations that inspired his work. Monthly fashion magazines in France, England, the U.S. covered his work through endless editorials with pictures taken by the best photographers of the time. Special commissions that were produced for royalty, businessmen, or world leaders were rarely publicized. However, correspondence with patrons has been released to show in this exhibition the vast circle of his devotees.

The museum today holds 4.500 original artifacts that were designed and supervised by Ilias Lalaounis but most importantly preserves original tools, designs, photo archive, the PR archive, and part of his library justifying his academia, and his pronouncement as one of the most important, fine jewelry makers in the second half of the 20th century.