In 1895, Efthymios Zolotas founded his eponymous jewellery workshop and boutique at Aiolou Street in his native city of Athens, Greece. He was only 21 and had just completed his apprenticeship in Paris. Equipped with the skills he had learnt there and an ardent passion for ancient Greek culture his revivalist creations were an instant success.
Jewellery Maker Profile: Zolotas
Love of Jewellery
Efthymios’ son, Xenophon Zolotas was a gifted academic who inherited his father’s love of jewellery and pride in his country. He became Prime Minister of Greece in 1990 but continued to play an instrumental role in the family jewellery business. In the late 1950s he registered the ZOLOTAS trademark, making it equivalent to their French and American contemporaries. Xenophon also continued his father’s legacy in promoting the ancient tradition of Greek goldsmiths.
Shortly after opening his workshop, Efthymios established an apprentice school in Athens for young goldsmiths. The school swiftly became an eminent institution, ensuring that ancient techniques such as granulation, threading and hammering gold by hand continued to be practiced.
The bold, theatrical and often large scale gold necklaces, earrings and cuffs produced by ZOLOTAS, often attracted a theatrical market. Elizabeth Taylor and Maria Callas were both loyal clients of ZOLOTAS, as was the Greek shipping magnate, Aristotle Onassis. During the 1980s, a series of designs created in partnership with former Tiffany designer, Ronald McNammer attracted the famous Greek actress, Irini Pappa. She was photographed wearing a striking set of gold wing earrings and matching necklace by ZOLOTAS playing Cleopatra in 1979 at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus Theatre.
In 2009 Georges Papalexis became the new artistic director of ZOLOTAS. Under his guidance ZOLOTAS’s distinct style has evolved, with a collaboration beginning in the same year with sculptress, Nisa Chevenement. This partnership marked a new phase in the company’s style. While maintaining the classical core, Nisa Chevenement’s micro sculptures of anthropomorphic figures are arranged rhythmically, to create a necklace filled with movement and magic.
Essence of Nature
At the heart of any ZOLOTAS design is a strong pride in Greece’s classical past. Typically ZOLOTAS creations are formed exclusively from the warm glow of 22k yellow gold to “capture the whole condensed essence of nature and the world on objects which were meant to live forever”.
History pervades every ZOLOTAS piece. The brand artfully crosses the boundary between past and present styles to create truly timeless, wearable works of art. This is achieved by their reverent attitude towards jewellery and its consistent place within human civilisation. ZOLOTAS recognises that jewellery is more than pure adornment, jewels adorn the body as potent symbols, imbued with memories or meanings beyond their material value.
For over 120 years inspiration for ZOLOTAS jewels has been taken from ancient Greek iconography: from Mycenae lions and rams heads to laurel leaves, snakes and vergina suns.
Under the artistic directorship of Georges Papalexis an increasing number of designs feature a dusting of diamonds, set within the rich gold. One such collection is the ENTASIS series of jewels moulded in 18k matte gold in designs inspired by Doric architecture.
Mythology, in addition to classical architecture and nature, are key motifs explored in ZOLOTAS collections. Paloma Picasso created a panel bracelet depicting the five phases of the moon for ZOLOTAS. The five moon phase faces were inspired by the classical Greek fascination with astrology and the moon’s consistent place within mythology.
The mythological figure of Hephaestus, god of metalworkers, could be seen as the brand’s patron. Hephaestus, according to Homer, created the shield of Achilles, the golden chest of Hercules and Ariadne’s bridal crown. Like this ancient Greek god, whose skill in moulding metal into beautiful objects was seemingly boundless, ZOLOTAS has become a symbol of Greek goldsmithing prowess. Like Hephaestus, ZOLOTAS, is a name that is responsible for the creation of rare and precious treasures that enchant the eye and make the mind marvel.