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Virginia Salem
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Published: 20 October 2017

The Craftsmanship of Ilias Lalaounis

As the only jeweler inducted into the prestigious Académie des Beaux-Arts, Ilias Lalaounis’ work has rightfully claimed its place in the canon of fine art. His designs over the second half of the 20th century have made contributions to the style and craftsmanship of modern jewelry, retaining a wide appeal to a variety of collectors and appreciators of fine art. Lalaounis’ striking designs and bold statement pieces resemble artifacts found in museums, but his reimagining of ancient styles and designs make a Lalaounis work timeless.

A fourth generation goldsmith in Athens, Lalounis took the helm of his family’s jewelry firm in 1941. By the 1950s his vision became clear: by blending his passion for history and Grecian art with ancient jewelry making techniques and modern technology, Lalounis could craft pieces that brought new life to Greek artifacts.  

Lalounis studied the intent behind the ancient creations that provided his inspiration, and trained his craftsmen in the art of the forgotten techniques used to create them. As such, Lalounis is credited to have brought back techniques such as granulation, filigree, hand weaving and hand hammering.

His first collection debuted in 1957 and was inspired by Classical, Hellenistic and Minoan Mycenaean art. This anachronistic but highly refined collection gained international attention and was the springboard for him to branch out on his own with a new company a few years later.

Lalaounis called gold “the most human material,” and used it as a vehicle to channel his creativity. His inspiration also included periods spanning from prehistoric Minoan art, to Persian and Byzantine; Chinese art and the Art of the Tudors. He also found inspiration in the random movements of animal and plant cells, orbits and constellations, while one of his collections draped the entire human body in gold jewelry.

In 1993 Lalaounis introduced the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum at the base of the Acropolis in Athens. Here, the brand and museum strive to continue the founder’s passion and vision—connecting the past and present, to breath new life into the jewelry of past civilizations. The museum is run by Lalaounis’ daughter Ioanna, and offers exhibitions of past collections.

Freeman’s is thrilled to have several representative Ilias Lalaounis pieces in the forthcoming Fine Jewelry sale on Nov. 1.

Lot 53, an elegant 18-karat gold lariat necklace from his classic animal heads collection, is designed as a rope terminating with two lion heads with ruby eyes.

Lots 106 and 135 are examples of some of Lalaounis’ most striking work—big, dramatic, gold statement pieces. Lot 106 is an 18-karat gold cuff bracelet in repoussé and matching earrings while Lot 135 is an 18-karat gold torque necklace, featuring a tapered design with a repoussé and textured gold finish of a scrolling vine motif.

Lot 56 is an exquisite and refined 18-karat gold necklace and bracelet set, designed with textured gold wheat sheaves with circular-cut diamond accents, also accompanied by a signed box. 

View the Fine Jewelry catalogue now. 

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