The Royal Jewellers S02 ep3 : Ilias Lalaounis Jewellery [Athens]

Interview with Maria Lalaounis

4,000 year old tradition of Greek art is kept alive. Age old techniques such as granulation, filigree and hand hammering are used along side modern techniques, to create jewelry inspired by ancient civilizations.


Lalaounis: I see myself as a creative person and because my job is not only designing and creating
the new collections, which I do with my sisters, whether they do it in actual designing or whether
they do it in giving me ideas about what goes on around the world of art, the world of fashion.

Lalaounis: I studied as an under-grad both art, studio art and economics, so I found this special
program which is called Art Administration. I also worked at Sothebys, the Cooper Hewitt
Museum of Design, I did internships in all these places.

Lalaounis: When study liberal art you get a general education, you take in all the different things
you see and you experience and then when you’re starting to work you can start implementing all
these things that are in there, in your brain, but they’re not yet formed. This is my process, and
that’s why I like travelling, I like visiting other countries, I like to see things. And then when I
come back here and I have to design something, everything comes together in a way, without it
being all organised into little boxes or having everything a reason why I do it.

ilias lalaounis jewels

Lalaounis: The first years I followed very much on my father’s footsteps, the style he had and I
deviated very little. That wasn’t something I liked very much in the sense that I thought it was
quite heavy for me and I prefer much lighter, much more fun jewellery much more jewellery with
colours and fun stones and so in the beginning it was very difficult until I got my identity. And I
think these last two collections that are quite different from what my father has done, and yet you
can say this is a Lalaounis piece.

Lalaounis: When I finished school I worked here at my father’s workshop for a whole year. In
reality I never became an excellent goldsmith because for that you need many, many years. But as
I said before, what intrigues me most is techniques, is knowing what I want to do and how I can
use it. So many times in the beginning the goldsmiths would come and tell me, no, no, no, we can’t
do this and it took me a few years to realise that I should say, yes you can, and this is the way you
should do it.

What’s he doing now?

ilias lalaounis jewels

Lalaounis: This is the Repousse technique, this black material is a combination of tar and sand and now
with fire he has to get it out, melt it away and then do the same procedure again from the other

Lalaounis: I think the most difficult thing in the jewellery process is from the two dimensional
design to incorporate it into a three dimensional piece.

Lalaounis: You make your first piece and you say no, no, no, I want it to go there but this is not
actually the place I like to be, so then you go to the next step and to the next step and maybe you
have created 10 pieces, 20 pieces and then your collection is starting to have a continuity.

Lalaounis: And here you can see something we also use very much, it’s the hand woven chain we
create in-house with lion’s head motifs which we believe are symbols of strength. He has to tie it
all together in order to be able then to give it its final form.

ilias lalaounis jewels

Lalaounis: We have two ways of doing our hand woven chain. This is the continuous thread hand
woven chain, you can see here it’s like the toys we had as children that you put through the head

Lalaounis: It’s a continuous thread that goes in and out, and in and out and then we have another
technique which is with pieces of gold we make little round parts and then we stick one in the

Lalaounis: I tried to learn a computer program a few years back, it was a disaster, it needed
something like 160 hours and it was all geometry and graphics and it was nothing creative, so I
thought if I’m going to use this, I’m going to lose all my creativity so it left it a bit on the side even
though I have the knowledge. I have learned some much easier programs down the line until today
but nothing is as nice as doing it by hand and then going and actually creating the piece in metal or
in wax.

ilias lalaounis jewels

Lalaounis: ??? translate

Lalaounis: Each one of us has a very different personality and has a very different style so we
know that by the end of the day if it has passed through the agreement of all three of us, it’s got to
be a good piece.

Does your father still come and get involved at that level now?

Lalaounis: He’s not very active in it but I know from the way he’s going to look at it you know if
he’s just going to say nothing, if he’s going to smile, if he’s going to turn away, I know exactly
what he feels about it.

Lalaounis: I did a collection about three years ago, it was called Harmony & Chaos, I wanted this
collection to have lots of movement, to have crazy big stones, to feel like a young person when
you see it, and when he saw it he laughed he said, oh my God, Maria, I hope somebody will want
to buy this, and when it was a success he laughed even more so.

Lalaounis: This last collection we’re doing is called Africa so I take into consideration the African
art as a whole, and then I think to myself, what feeling do I get, what is the most important thing
that has been imprinted in my mind about this vast art, which part of it am I going to study even
more, and what am I going to use in my jewellery?

Lalaounis: What I like most is all the geometrical lines that we see everywhere, the consecutive
lines that they either engrave or they draw everywhere whether be it on their body, be it on their

Lalaounis: Until a few years ago, my father was the person who gave the line, he would say this is
the theme now go away and play. The last few years, it’s us who have decided it and mainly again
all my sisters get together and you know again we see what’s happening around us, where are we
today and what do we choose? And right now, I mean tribal art is very in.

Lalaounis: I am proud of my daughters, I am the contrary, am very, very happy because to do with
them because they are in the shop just from the beginning of their lives.

Lalaounis: Since we were very little girls we used to go and work in the workshop and I was selling
from five years old, I remember myself at Christmas being in the shop and selling my first ring,
which I couldn’t believe and then you know we, holidays we always used to work, my sister even
worked as a craftsman here in the workshop.

Lalaounis: Slowly, slowly they are going to be put together and then they will

Lalaounis: Is the difference between my father’s time and our time is that at the time women used
to wear jewellery only on special occasions. Now, they’re part of their daily life so we try to create
and we’re creating designs for women for them to be able to wear them going to work in the
morning and wear them on a special occasion in the evening.

Lalaounis: There’s this person called in our shop in Paris asking for a ring and for a special part
and he said he really wanted a special ring and our very old, old fashioned colleague at the shop
was saying yes, we have everything, we have … inspirations we have anything you want from
technology we have from ancient civilisation. He was insisting but you know I want the special
ring, and she was saying yes, we have everything but he wasn’t actually saying what kind of a
special ring he did want and after that it was for a special part of his wife and the women I think
almost she did faint. She said I’m sorry we don’t carry that.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Ilias Lalaounis Jewellery