The Stuff of Legend: LaLaounis Jewelry
Goldsmith Ilias LaLaounis's legacy is built on one defining principle: that every piece of jewelry tells a story.
LaLaounis arrived at that guiding philosophy by doing what other mid-century Greek jewelers weren't: making jewelry that felt uniquely Greek, rather than copying what was popular in the rest of Europe. LaLaounis studied political science and law at The University of Athens, but when his uncle asked him to step into his jewelry business in 1940, Ilias LaLaounis became a fourth generation goldsmith.
From the start, LaLaounis saw the potential of mining history for inspiration. While still managing his uncle's company, he began to make reproductions of ancient Greek pieces. Eventually, not content with merely copying the designs of the past, he started to design his own pieces, taking Byzantine, Minoan, and Mycenaean decorative themes, as well as the long history of Greek gold work, as his starting point. LaLaounis would focus his collections on one era of history at a time, but rather than approaching them chronologically, he worked with the historical designs that best fit the fashion of the current moment. Even though history was his muse, LaLaounis always wanted to make jewelry that spoke to the modern woman.
Gold bracelets from the Lalaounis Minoan-Mycenaean Collection
Jacqueline Onassis at her 40th birthday party in the Lalaounis Moon Landing earrings
When LaLaounis left his uncle's firm and started his own company in 1969, he got a boost from a commission from one of Greece's most influential tastemakers. For his wife Jackie's fortieth birthday, Aristotle Onassis asked LaLaounis to make a pair of earrings commemorating that year's moon landing, in a gentle nod to Jackie's first husband's legacy. Jackie was photographed wearing the earrings as the couple celebrated her birthday at an Athens nightclub, which they left at 7am the next morning. In true trendsetting style, Jackie wore the earrings with a Pucci minidress and flip flops.
Over the years, LaLaounis's sources of inspiration expanded to include the stars, science, nature, and, to bring it full circle, the way that the ancient Greeks themselves had been inspired by nature. For instance, earrings that recall a bison's horn aren't only inspired by the bison, but by the Greek's incorporation of the form into their own works, and the connection therein between the purity of form in nature and man's adaptation of it into art.
By the time of Ilias's death in 2013, the LaLaounis jewelry company was a global entity, with retail stores in several countries. Both the company and the Ilias LaLaounis Jewelry Museum (founded by LaLaounis and his wife in 1993) are now run by LaLaounis's four daughters. They and their own daughters have also been the company's primary models in their marketing campaigns. Maria LaLaounis, who is now the creative director of the company, foregrounds the desires of the contemporary woman in her designs. So while she still looks to history for inspiration, she favors 18 carat gold over her father's preferred 22 carat, for its subtler tone and more casual feel. And so the story of LaLaounis jewelry continues, always drawing on chapters from the past, but never losing sight of the world around it.

The Signature Fall Auction
Saturday, September 18th
9:00am (EDT)

Pieces of Lalaounis Jewelry to be offered in The Signature Fall Auction