PARIS — Zolotas, the Greek jewelry brand worn by personalities including Jackie Onassis and Elizabeth Taylor, has returned to Paris after a 25-year absence as the first step toward international expansion.
The privately owned house, known for its gold jewelry inspired by Greek antiquity, has opened a 1,400-square-foot store at 3 Rue de Miromesnil, a stone’s throw from the Elysée presidential palace.
Created in 1895, the firm has historic ties to France. Founder Efthymios Zolotas trained on Place Vendôme and his son Xenophon, an economist and statesman, summed up the company philosophy in a text written in French, which is displayed on an engraved plaque on the store’s facade.
These days, Zolotas is owned and run by Marianne Papalexis, a Frenchwoman who has been with the company for more than four decades, and her son Georges Papalexis, who took over as chief executive officer and artistic director in 2009.
“I am fortunate to be half-French, half-Greek, so it was a personal dream to return to the international scene starting with France,” said Georges Papalexis. “Paris is a center for creativity and inspiration, and Zolotas has a place in Paris because the French customer loves and respects the history of the brand and our style of jewelry.”
Marianne Papalexis, chairwoman of the company, noted that it rose to prominence in the Sixties, becoming popular with Greek shipping magnates, jetsetters and celebrities such as Maria Callas and Dewi Sukarno. More recent fans include Catherine Deneuve, Carole Bouquet and Adèle Exarchopoulos.
“All the other jewelers are our competitors, of course, but you can’t really say we have any direct competition, because we have a very specific style,” she noted. “But we realize that a lot of people have forgotten us or don’t know who we are, so it’s obvious that we must absolutely let them know we exist.”
Zolotas specializes in traditional techniques for working gold, which is sculpted, woven or hammered. Its Heritage collection features mythological animals like bulls, lions and rams; the Classics collection is based on minimal shapes in hammered gold, and the Byzance collection represents the more Baroque end of the spectrum.
Prices range from 450 euros, or around $510, for a ring to 80,000 euros, or $91,000, for certain high jewelry pieces, but average price points hover between 3,500 euros and 5,500 euros, or $3,980 and $6,250.
The house produces its jewelry in Greece and until now sold it exclusively through its Athens flagship, where an estimated 35 percent of customers are from overseas. Marianne Papalexis said she hoped the Paris store would account for 40-45 percent of global revenues at the end of its first year, but declined to disclose additional figures.
Zolotas had a store on Rue Saint-Honoré from the mid-Sixties to the late Eighties, but the new boutique sits among art galleries. “We produce works of art, so we think it’s legitimate for us to be in this neighborhood next to great art galleries. It sets us apart from the jewelers on Place Vendôme,” Georges Papalexis said.
He noted the Greek economic crisis has caused revenues at Zolotas to fall by 30 percent in the last six years, but things are looking up. “The future of the company relies on internationalization, but also on Greece, because we have seen a return of foreign tourists in Athens in the last two years,” he said.
He hopes to eventually re-enter the U.S. market with a store in Los Angeles or New York. The Paris flagship represents the first step in reintroducing the brand, which last year joined French luxury goods trade association Comité Colbert.
Designed by Greek architect Lykourgos Psareas, it has a midnight blue and marble facade. The interior is rendered in soft shades of gray punctuated by bronze display units and touches of crimson.
The ground floor houses a circular jewelry bar displaying capsule collections, jewelry and accessories in gold, silver, leather and steel. On the first floor, customers can admire historic collections from the Fifties to the present day, including limited-edition collaborations with artists.