The Greek firm of Zolotas was founded in 1895 in Athens at the foot of the Acropolis by Efthimios Zolotas.
After gaining experience at the ateliers in Paris he returned home determined to use what he had learnt to start his own business. In doing so he wanted to create a jewellery house that combined the traditions and style of his homeland with Parisian standards of craftsmanship. The firm was immediately successful and Zolotas was soon able to open his own workshop adjacent to the store on Aiolou Street. In 1904 he married his wife Konstantina and their son Xenofon was born the following year. By this time his work had come to the attention of the Greek Royal family and in 1910 he created a series of jewels for them to wear to the coronation of England’s King George V.
Xenofon didn’t join his father in the business but instead forged his own path, becoming a Professor at the University of Thessaloniki, working for the Bank of Greece and even serving briefly as Prime Minister, however he always remained connected to the Zolotas business. Indeed, it was he who initiated the collaborations with Greek archaeological museums at the beginning of the 1960s to re-interpret the Classical motifs and patterns found therein and transpose them onto jewellery. This reimagining of ancient history and honouring of Greek culture produced some of the firms most successful and memorable jewels which were adored by stylish women such as Maria Callas, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
The 1970s saw a store opening in Paris and collaborations with the sculptor Claude Lalanne and the artist Paloma Picasso who designed various pieces for the firm including a gold panel bracelet featuring the phases of the moon in five faces. The ex-Tiffany designer Ronald McNamer worked closely with the House creating collections based on the characteristics of the three orders of ancient Greek architecture – the Doric, Ionian and Corinthian. He loved to use 22ct gold and employed techniques such as hand-hammering which gave the jewels a distinctive appearance.