Ilias Lalalounis, jeweler, artist, and academician, has become world renowned for creating luxurious gold jewelry steeped in history.
Ilias Lalalounis was born in Athens in 1920, the fourth generation of a family of goldsmiths and watchmakers from Delphi.
After studying economics and law at the University of Athens, he decided to join his uncle’s jewelry firm, where, apprenticed as a goldsmith, he learned the skills that were to determine his future as a master craftsman.
In 1941, while Greece was in the grip of WWII, Ilias Lalaounis took over the family firm. Prompted by a passion for history, he began studying the art of his ancestors.
In the 1950’s, while Greece was recovering from the war years, Lalaounis’ vision became clear: he decided to breathe new life into Greek museum artifacts and transform them into jewelry by reviving age old techniques while also introducing the use of modern technology.
His craft would not only be about producing an object of beauty; he would also seek to convey the spiritual and symbolic link of an object to its historical past.
In order to perfect his art, Ilias Lalaounis needed not only to grasp the idea behind those ancient creations, but also to school his fellow craftsmen in the art of neglected/forgotten techniques, such as granulation, filigree, hand-weaving and hand-hammering.
Lalaounis founded the Greek Jeweler’s Association and exhibited his first collection in 1957, the ‘archeological collection,’ inspired by Classical, Hellenistic and Minoan Mycenaean art. With modern jewels steeped in antiquity, this was anachronism at its most refined and the world took note.
In the 1960’s, after his uncle passed away, Ilias Lalaounis decided to branch out on his own. He started his own company with its headquarters on Karyatides Street, at the foot of the Acropolis.
Unlike his peers, who favored diamonds and large stones, Lalaounis found early on his calling in gold, ‘the most human material,’ as he called it. His collections, dripping in 18 and 22 karat gold, were inspired by the art of many different cultures and periods. His interest spanned from prehistoric to Minoan art, from Persian to Byzantine, from Chinese art to the art of the Tudors.
In the 70’s, Lalaounis provoked a sensation with his collection ‘BLOW UP,’ draping the human body in gold jewelry. He followed this by redefining new means of expression, inspired by spheres such as nature and science, flowers and biosymbols, the random movements of animal and plant cells, orbits and constellations.
As appreciation of his work spread, the business continued to grow, expanding throughout Europe, Asia and America. He became the first goldsmith to be honored by the Institut de France, Academie des Beaux Arts et des Lettres, for his inspired contribution to the art of jewelry creation.
Since 1998, the mantle of Ilias Lalaounis’ inexhaustible creativity has been passed on to his four daughters, who are ensuring the continuity of his legacy and that Lalaounis timeless creations will continue to adorn women and men for generations to come.
In the span of over half a century there have been over 50 collections and 17,000 pieces of jewelry created by Ilias Lalaounis.