Housed in a neo-classical 1930’s building, at the foothills of the southern slope of the Acropolis, the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum underwent major renovations to achieve Lalaounis’ vision of creating an international centre for the ancient art of gold-smithing and other traditional crafts. The permanent exhibition, which consists of more than 4,000 pieces of jewellery and decorative objects, encapsulates Lalaounis’ remarkable vision and career.
The museum is one of the few in the world dedicated to contemporary jewellery and decorative arts and the only one dedicated to the life work of a contemporary jewellery goldsmith. Established in 1993 and opening its doors to the public in December 1994, it is run as a non-profit organisation.
It was in the 1950’s when Lalaounis’ success began and launched his career, thanks to his revival of Greek jewellery that was inspired by his culture’s ancient artefacts. It led to many more archaeological collections based on various cultures in Europe, Asia and the Americas. The permanent exhibition starts on the first floor, with the Classical – Hellenistic Collection of 1957.
Lalaounis perfected working with gold and preferred to manually hammer the metal. He brought Greek jewellery back into vogue. Celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Barbara Streisand wore his pieces and gave the brand an international glamour profile.
His life’s work wraps around the first floor in a full circle moving through the decades of the 1940’s – 1990’s. Modern technology, astronomy, nature and medicine inspire many of the collections during the 1970’s.
The Far East Collection, designed in 1981, was inspired by Chinese creations of the Bronze Age. He opted for a moment in time when the civilisations of Greece and China created parallel aesthetic values.
The museum features an authentic jewellery workshop on the ground floor allowing visitors to observe the resident goldsmith at work using ancient techniques and materials.
Linking the past with the present is a common theme throughout Lalaounis’ career and the museum beautifully curates the evolution of his work, illustrating how he became a true a pioneer Greek goldsmith of the twentieth century. The legacy of Lalaounis’ work can also found in his retail stores throughout Greece, Paris, London and New York.