Greek designer Alexia Gryllaki took a circuitous route to jewellery: she first studied Philosophy and the History of Science, then studied Gemology and Jewelry Design at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), in London, and followed it up her Masters in Corporate Finance.
This, she observes, widened her horizons and expanded her sources of inspiration. “In order to become a good designer, I needed to know more about the materials that I would use in my creations. So, I studied gemmology to learn everything about gemstones and understand how to incorporate them in my designs, based on their unique characteristics and their ability to withstand wear.” She spent the next few years working with Greek and Italian fine jewellery brands. It gave her the opportunity to experiment with different styles and helped her create extravagant and edgy pieces. The designer also learned how to make pieces with existing stones and within a budget. During her time at Holts Gems, in Hatton Garden, UK, she tested gemstones and was in-charge of handling the stock. “Besides the nice work environment and the lovely people that I worked with, Holts was where I really learned everything I know about gemstones,” she adds.
In 2015, Alexia received ‘The President’s Award’ from the Culture Pearl Association of America, for her Illusion Earrings made in 18-karat blackened gold with baguette colourless diamonds, round brilliant-cut champagne diamonds, Akoya and South Sea Pearls.
This instilled in her the confidence to launch her line. “My Master’s degree in Corporate Finance equipped me with the necessary business knowledge to be able to start my own company in 2016. I believe that all my studies contributed, in different ways, to my final goal of starting my jewellery brand,” she says.
Her designs aesthetics varies depending on the collection, but a constant element throughout the creations is the use of gemstones. “As a gemmologist I can’t help my love for gems; I incorporate them in my creations in different ways that either compliment the design or are the main focus. Geometry is another element that is present in my jewellery, because I like to design with a sense of logic, order and balance,” she adds.
Comprising forty-five pieces, the One-Of-A-Stone collection – inspired by her personal gem collection – pays tribute to gemmology and the unique characteristics of the gem species. “I wanted to create little wearable paintings where gold is the canvas and gemstones are the paint, and the colours resemble the ones found in modern and post-modern art, like the magnificent pastel tones in Monet’s impressionist creations and the vibrant hues in Gerhard Richter’s abstract paintings,” she explains.
The One-Of-A-Stone collection features an assortment of coloured stones. What sparked the love of gems?
The idea behind the One-Of-A-Stone collection was to explore the beauty of gemstones, so I used extraordinary stones to create wearable pieces. The minimalism in the design ensures the focus is on the materials. I believe that gemstones are nature’s luscious art creations, they have an unparalleled beauty, characterised by amazing colours, incredible geometrical features and come in a variety of transparencies and textures – so, inevitably, I like everything about them.
The One-Of-A-Stone collection has numerous ear climbers, studs and rings. How did this shape up as key styles?
Ear climbers and studs mirror an understated elegance – and compared to a pair of long earrings that might look formal and excessive, they display the desired brilliance in a subtle way where you can have many stones set together yet have a casual, everyday jewellery piece. Rings have always been one of my favourite styles; unlike earrings, you can see them, while you wear them and therefore enjoy them more.
You have used a very interesting stone Charoite in your new line. What do you like about this stone?
Charoite is a beautiful translucent-to-opaque stone that comes in light to dark purple hues and displays chatoyancy, which gives it a sheen similar to the one found in pearls. It has a fibrous wavy look that reminds me of the swirly brush strokes in Van Gogh’s paintings.
How do you meld your Greek heritage with your minimalist design style?
Greece has a long tradition in jewellery, with ancient and modern pieces mainly made of gold and what was missing were contemporary jewellery embellished with extraordinary gemstones. So, that is where I focused. I integrated the excellence of Greek craftsmanship with contemporary aesthetics and designs that highlight the beauty of gemstones.
Where do you find inspiration for your jewellery?
Inspiration is a subjective process where each one finds different components of the observed element appealing. For me, architecture is an endless source of geometrical beauty; nature is the master of organic aesthetic; paintings bring out feelings; and sculptures trigger the mind’s ability to understand forms and volumes.