Tribute to Ilias I. Lalaounis

Ilias I. Lalaounis

Leadership 100 will pay tribute to the late Ilias Lalaounis, the world renowned Greek academician, artist and designer. His contributions as a goldsmith and jeweler whose designs regenerated the glories of Greek history and tradition, transcended his craft and led to international recognition as the only jeweler ever elected to be a member of the French Academy of Fine Arts in 1990. He will be recognized posthumously with the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Award for Excellence for his contributions to Hellenism at the Grand Banquet on Saturday, February 14, 2015. The Award will be accepted by his wife, Lila, along with one of his four daughters, Ioanna. His three other daughters are Katerini, Dimitra and Maria. All four daughters direct both the company and museum he founded. 

 Born in Athens in 1920, the fourth generation of a family of goldsmiths and watchmakers, Lalaounis died in 2013, having transformed his beginnings in a family jewelry company into a worldwide presence, in which he was distinguished for reviving ancient Greek goldsmithing and promoting it through his collections throughout the second half of the 20th century. He also founded and served as President of the Lalaounis Jewelry Museum in Athens.

After graduating with excellence from the Greek University of Athens University of Economics and Business with a degree in Economics, Lalaounis took design and drawing classes and also gained knowledge of Byzantine music. While managing the family firm, he studied ancient Greek goldsmithery techniques that had been forgotten, and organized and trained Greek jewelers to enlarge both his own workshop and Greek production on precious metals. He left aside the European and American tradition of precious gems decorating extensively the jewels and created jewels that were precious but more accessible to the markets. Gold 18 and 22 k, sterling silver, semiprecious stones and few precious stones were used on exquisite handmade jewels that travelled and were adored from Tokyo to New York, from London to Istanbul.  

In 1968 the family firm was split and Lalaounis opened his own flagship shops and a workshop at the Acropolis in Athens, which would lead to mounting 50 collections and 18,000 designs, in the most prestigious spaces in Paris, New York, and Tokyo, as well as in museums and galleries. Every collection presented 300-800 designs, all having a theme inspired by ancient Greek art, world art history, the natural environment, new technological advancements and children’s designs. His studies of ancient Greek and Byzantine civilization and ingenious idea of reviving ancient Greek jewelry were hugely successful and attracted an international clientele. His knowledge and grasp of the art and history of early civilizations led to a number of ‘archaeological’ collections based on various cultures in Europe, Asia and America.  

The Lalaounis personal idiom was dominated by his distinctive medium, 22K gold, and the belief that ‘every piece of jewelry has a story to tell’. Famous women wore and adored his jewels and “Ilias Lalaounis boutiques” sprung up in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, Geneva, Lausanne, New York, London, Virgin Islands and over 19 in Greece. His workshop became renowned for having only the best master craftsmen. Everything was produced in Athens at the Acropolis “workshop” and later at the new establishment in Nea Kifissia with a state of the art goldsmith workshop. The building of the old workshop, his parents home together with his archives, library, rare tools and all their secrets together with 3500 jewels and objets d’ art originals were donated in 1993 to the first jewelry museum founded in Greece and one of only two of its kind in the world. Under the rock of the Acropolis, and the Theatres of Irodium Atticus and Dionysos, on Karyatidon and Kallisperi Streets, Lalaounis left his legacy to spread, his secrets to become examples for young jewellers and entrepreneurs and his contributions to Hellenism to become a permanent feature of Greek culture.

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