1895: The birth of a modern myth
In neoclassical Athens of 1895, at the foot of the Acropolis, at Aiolou Street, a 21-year-old son of merchants from Spercheiada, Lamia, lays the first stone of what will soon become the most historic jewelry house in Greece. After completing his brilliant education in famous ateliers of Paris, Efthimios Zolotas returns home with acquired experience proportional to his talent and ambition. His vision: to create a new Greek house of jewels with prestigious reception and service, offering the Athenians the masterpieces of European standards. At once the ZOLOTAS House charms the high society of Athens, making the historic first store at Aiolou Street the meeting point of all the Athenian elite.
Its immediate success is accompanied by the implementation of bigger plans. Efthimios Zolotas decides to add to his store the jewelry ateliers where he gathers the most specialized goldsmith artists. Sharing with them his know-how, he creates a real apprentice school that soon becomes the best performing school of the time with a signature authentic style.
In 1904 he marries Konstantina Zolotas, a young woman with broad education. In 1905 they have a son, Xenofon Zolotas, who worthily continues his father’s dream.
1950 – 1960: A historical revival
The wish of Konstantina Zolotas to turn her son towards erudition and scientific knowledge will prevail over her husband’s desire to bequeath his art to his only son. At the age of 24 years old, Xenofon Zolotas was appointed Professor in Financial Law at the University of Thessaloniki. Professor Xenophon Zolotas is not only 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 is also a man of rare education, with deep knowledge of Greek literature and high vision for Hellenism.
However, Xenofon Zolotas doesn’t let his passion for jewelry, infused by his father, fade away. He becomes passionately involved in his father’s business, a father who he deeply admires and respects. In the late 50s, he decides to make the ZOLOTAS trademark equal to that of 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 coming directly from the Greek cultural heritage, merged with a modern style; co-existence of the old techniques and the original know-how possessed by the house’s craftsmen.
Together with his wife, Kallirhoe (prominent member of the Greek aristocracy of New York), who becomes his muse and the reason for the creation of mythical jewelry, he manages to identify the House with the very glory of Hellenism by establishing exclusive cooperation 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 gold-trimmed Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna, return to life and are worn by great personalities across the globe. Throughout the 60s, the ZOLOTAS House’s gold threads embrace women’s wrists, and the winged figures of its jewelry transform them into modern goddesses. The list of big names charmed by ZOLOTAS` creations is itself an aesthetic imprint of the era: Aristotle Onassis, the couple Kennedy, Romy Schneider, Elizabeth Taylor, Maria Callas…
1970: In the golden globe of Fine Arts
In the early 70s, the already world-known House of Jewelry establishes in Paris. Great artists coming from different horizons are inspired by the philosophy of the new Greek jeweler and join together around his vision.
• Visual Arts respond enthusiastically to this new style, with the “magnetic jewel” special creations of the great Greek sculptor Takis – pearls that change position according to the body temperature! -or the elegant “lucky charms” of the acclaimed painter Alekos Fasianos leaving their mark.
• Another flagship collaboration of this period adds to the collections of the House the subtle creations of the sculptor Claude Lalanne. The color of gold is poured on the elegant surfaces of laurel leaves, which are transformed into long necklaces, accompany belts and decorate gold chains for the ankles. The Mediterranean laurel leaf embraces the world once again.
The rising artist Paloma Picasso, daughter of the great Pablo, designs a limited collection of unique necklaces and bracelets in the shape of daisy petals and bracelets with the faces of the moon. The young creator’s inspiration meets perfectly the traditional techniques of the House’s skilled goldsmith artists, leading to exciting results: these are the first, more vivid jewelry designs of Paloma Picasso and the start of a new era for the ZOLOTAS House.
1980: The era of Ronald Mc Namer
The Cooperation with New York designer Ronald Mc Namer was a real twist in the modern jewelry making. In the late 1970s, Mc Namer, who until recently was designing for Tiffany’s, accepted the invitation to design a new collection for the ZOLOTAS House. He travels to Greece and is immediately charmed by the traditional techniques of the ZOLOTAS ateliers and the unique aesthetic of Greek patterns. Capturing perfectly the particular vision of the House, he soon becomes its strongest supporter. Mc Namer daily visits the atelier, collections and museums, he learns and he teaches, and becomes a designer-goldsmith artist, participating passionately in all stages of jewelry making. Soon he becomes the “soul” of the ZOLOTAS House.
Concentrating on the volume and shape, the American designer invents jewelry inspired by architectural motifs, based on characteristics of the three basic architectural orders of ancient Greece: the Doric, the Ionian and the Corinthian. The meander and the spiral regain a modern plasticity, adjusting their ancient motifs in brilliant creations in 22 KT gold, often hand-hammered.
Ronald Mc Namer’s passion for the theater – in New York he was one of the most famous stage costumes and jewelry designers – leads his boundless interest towards the ancient Greek drama. The jewelry he designs for the Greek tragedienne Irini Pappa for her Shaekspearean role as Cleopatra (directed by Michael Kakogiannis) perfectly match the triumphant, hieratic performance of the great actress in the Odeon of Herodes Atticus Theatre in 1979.
2000: Stepping into the new millennium
The 21st century brings new challenges to the ZOLOTAS House. Globalization brings new inspirations and contemporary jewelry brings innovative features. In response to these challenges, the ZOLOTAS’ goldsmith artists create jewelry introducing new shapes while remaining faithful to the House’s tradition. Modern collections like ENTASIS, with jewelry inspired by the Doric architecture, in 18KT matte gold, with or without diamonds, continue to embody perfectly this timeless technique and aesthetic requirement.
In 2009, the collaboration with the sculptress Nisa Chevènement marks a stylistic evolution in the collections of ZOLOTAS House. The House’s new era is sealed with the micro-sculptural inspirations of the French artist. The elongated anthropomorphic figures of Chevènement unite together and dance in a circle, or stand like other Cycladic statues, hieratic, eternal forms of the Aegean Sea. This limited jewelry collection captures the timeless anthropocentric dimension of the Greek civilization.
Maintaining the family character that has been part of his success and moving towards the continuity of his tradition, ZOLOTAS finds itself on the frontline of a multimillenial patrimony.
In 2009 Georges Papalexis joins the House as the new artistic director, after having completed his jeweler expertise in Paris, directly inspired by the the founder’s trail.
He is perfectly aware of the brand’s stylistic force, its frenetic creativity, and undertakes the task to recreate it respecting its singular identity. He brings back iconic codes, favoring thematic inspiration originating from the architectural orders. Diamond prevails in his new collections and new collections of yellow, white, grey or pink gold see the light.