Zolotas, the inescapable Greek jewelry brand
Since his childhood, Georges Papalexis has been surrounded by the magical beauty of the famous Greek jewelry brand Zolotas, created 120 years ago. Renown for its expertise, this Greek house creates pieces in precious gold, with an artistic and Hellenic flair, reviving jewels of mythical Ancient Greece. Ancestral techniques, known since ancient times, are used here, notably the chrysotechnie. In 2009, Georges Papalexis took on the position of artistic director, after having obtained various jewelry design qualifications in Paris. Today, on the threshold of the XXI century, his challenge for the brand remains to blend innovative creativity and respect for its unique DNA. Interview with Katya Pellegrino.
The story of ZolotasZolotas is the product of the ambition and talent of a young man : Efthymios Zolotas, who after his apprenticeship in Paris, decided to create a prestigious jewelry house in Athens in 1895. The success was instant. In 1904, he married Konstantina Zolotas, a pious and intelligent young woman. From this union, their only child Zenophon Zolotas was born, a brilliant student with high ambitions, who would finally become Greece’s Prime Minister in 1990. Parallel to his political job, Zenophon Zolotas continued to demonstrate his love and fascination for jewelry, which was instilled by his father. He took for mission to internationally promote the art of goldsmithing as part of the Greek spirit. His wife, Kallirhoe, became his muse and he created unique pieces of jewelry for her, becoming well-known all around the world. It was his initiative that started unique collaborations with famous designers and the house of Zolotas.
Where does this love for jewelry come from ?Born in Athens, I grew up in this universe thanks to my mother who worked as a sales director for Rue St Honoré in the 60's. It’s therefore that I have great affinity for the Zolotas family whom I’ve known since childhood. I was also fortunate to travel a lot with my mother (Abu Dhabi, Japan, Kuwait ...), because she was involved in the international development of the brand which, in the 80s / 90s, was internationally distributed. Then, I studied management, obtained a gemologist degree, learned to make technical drawings and did an MBA at Sup de Luxe in 2007.
What did you get from this MBA at Sup de Luxe ?I started with a project for my thesis. Being already professionally active, I had a clear goal and specific questions about the development of the Zolotas brand. At Sup de Luxe, I had the opportunity to meet professionals in the branch who could provide me with the answers. It was an exciting, rewarding and very formative year.
How do you define the Zolotas style ?An iconic brand for 120 years, a tribute to ancient Greece, incorporating Hellenic codes, drawing its thematic inspiration from Greek archaeological museums. It is the Renaissance of the gold jewel in chrysotechnie : the art of working the gold with three emblematic skills : weaving with threads, granulation and hammering … the stone is only used to enhance the work of the material and serves as ornament.
How do you see the development of Zolotas ?This traditional house is marked by its 120-year history. Its modernity dates back to the 1960s, when it decided to collaborate with the Greek Archaeological Museums. The pieces of jewelry with forms like the Mycenae lions or the Vergina sun, seduced many iconic personalities like Aristotle Onassis, the Kennedy couple, Romy Schneider, Elizabeth Taylor and Maria Callas to name a few. All these legendary models have contributed to the brand’s international exposure. To continue these successful collaborations the house worked with great personalities like Paloma Picasso, bringing a new era to Zolotas jewelry, Nisa Chevènement, as well as the prestigious New York collaboration with Ronald McNamer. He became the soul of the house of Zolotas with his jewelry drawing its inspiration from architecture, based on the characteristics of the three main orders of ancient Greece : Doric, Ionic and Corinthian.
What is your clientele ?A high-end clientele, aristocrat and bourgeois. ‘La Parisienne’ of course, but also Americans love this kind of jewelry with the allure of a modern diva. The Japanese, the clientele of the United Arab Emirates. We recently opened a boutique Rue de Miromesnil, reflecting our values and heritage, with a "Jewelry bar", where we present our capsule collections.
By Katya PELLEGRINO