Greece has had outstanding fame as a producer of fine, hand-detailed jewelry. LaLaounis, Bulgari, Elena Votsi –these names are synonymous with fine craftsmanship, sophistication, and elegance. The tradition of fine jewelry dates to ancient times. Greek jewel design takes on several styles correspondent to historical periods. Ancient replicas as well as Byzantine are well-known, but for this feature we interviewed a designer of Hellenistic pieces that are intriguing in their own right.
In a small, non-descript workshop in Nea Ionia, a well-known shopping district in Athens, Panagiotis Mitrogiannis works meticulously on silver and gold designs from scratch. He employs traditional molding and fashioning techniques using old-fashioned machines including a molten oven. His designs are inspired by Hellenistic artifacts, but as far as he is concerned “I am the only jeweler producing these Hellenistic-styled modern pieces in Greece.”
The Hellenistic period in Greek history, marked as beginning with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE and fading out with the rise of Augustus in 31 BCE and the death of Cleopatra in 30 BCE, roughly from 4th century BC to 1st century AD, produced some of the most elaborate and exquisite jewelry to date. Alexander had laid hold of a vast empire which included the gold mecca of Babylon. The resources in precious metals from the Middle East along with the vision to spread Greek ideas, culture and styles to the greater world produced a boom in gold pieces. It would be equivalent to the globalization and mass media reproduction of American style, culture, and mores we witness today. The pieces that have come down to us today have been found from tombs such as Philip II of Macedon’s, the father of Alexander the Great, and some in Ptolemaic Egypt. (The Ptolemies big show offs in their day made a vogue out of elaborate golden pieces, some to be worn during life and others made especially for burial) Pieces from this epoch include the usual genres: bracelets, rings, necklaces, but also some specific to their period wreaths, hairnets, diadems, arm bands and even thigh bands.
According to an explanatory tract from the Villa Collection of the J Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, California, one of the finest collections of Hellenistic jewelry in the world, “In the Hellenistic period, the Greek world was flooded with gold. Greece itself had few sources of gold, and those had been depleted by the late Classical period. Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Persian Empire, which included Egypt, made vast resources of gold available for the first time. The various royal courts of Alexander’s successors, including the Ptolemies in Egypt, comprised a wealthy clientele with a taste for luxury, which, in combination with this new abundance of gold, led to an immense outpouring of gold jewelry” (Getty Villa).
Panagiotis’ pieces make use of signature Hellenistic symbols such as the Heracles knot, the sphynx, and even the Athenian wolf, a now extinct species that has been immortalized in gold. The Hellenistic age usually featured symbols from nature such as the elaborate acanthus leaf and depicted gods such as Eros, Nike, and Aphrodite, all motifs he makes use of in his work. He has extended the Heracles knot, the proverbial knot Hercules used to tie the Nemean lion skin to his body, into more than one type of design. Some bracelets are studded with emeralds and rubies while others feature the plain silver and gold. He twists the silver into elaborate knots just like the jewelers of the Hellenistic age. Using a dentist’s drill, he painstakingly decorates the bands with furrows, rosettes, and elaborate swirls.
But it was Medusa that captured the imagination of the Hellenistic world. Takis has also been working on a prototype gold bracelet featuring the Gorgon immortal, a piece he plans to release to the market next spring. Making a signature piece such as this takes months. “I put my heart and soul into my pieces,” Takis maintains, “Beauty cannot be rushed.”
Takis technical virtuosity and sumptuous designs are now available to a global audience. If interested in making a purchase or asking a question for a made-to-order piece, shoot us an email at info@firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a catalogue.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I want the thigh band to come back. Bring back the thigh band—yeah, yeah–that would be a great summer accessory.
These things of beauty will make you rethink the adage that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. I’d prefer a set of gold griffon earrings like these:
Here are some of Takis’ signature pieces:
The Heracles Knot:
The Greek Sphynx:
The Athenian Wolf:
The Greek Key:
Here is Panagiottis taking us on a tour of his silver/gold workshop:
If you want more jaw-dropping yowsers of the Hellenistic age, go glaze your eyes on Merletto Vintages Pinterest page of Hellenistic jewelry or by Mytrw Petrou http://www.pinterest.com/myrtw_petrou/greek-hellenistic-jewelry/