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GreekReporter.comGreek NewsSecond-Generation Jeweler Brings Faith and Ancient Art to Designs

Second-Generation Jeweler Brings Faith and Ancient Art to Designs

Paraskevi Polychronis Antonopoulos – an amalgamation of beautiful Greek names that invoke images of faith, timelessness and Hellenism – is a talented jewelry designer, goldsmith and graduate gemologist. Those images are all things that inspire this artist, known to friends as Vivian. She and her brother run Paul’s Jewelers in Milwaukee, Wisc., which was founded by her late father. We had the opportunity to speak to Vivian about her work. 

Where is your family from in Greece?

My father, Polychronis, is from Sklirou, Andritsaina in Olympia. My mother, Marousa, has roots in Kythera.

How did the jewelry store come about?

My mother’s family encouraged Dad to begin repairing watches.  Soon after, in 1967, he opened a storefront property on Milwaukee’s South Side, calling it Paul’s Jewelers.

You didn’t want to be a jewelry designer at first.

I served as an apprentice to my father from the age of 10, and I became passionate about jewelry design. However, I earned a degree in secondary education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and for a time, worked as a teacher. I minored in art, and this along with the experiences I had with my father, drove me to pursue a career in design.

You studied your craft.

My father insisted that I become as educated and knowledgeable as possible. So he sent me to the Gemological Institute of America for a two-year masters program. I studied for one year each at the LA and NY campuses. While in NY, I studied on weekends at the renowned Kulicke-Stark Academy of Jewelry Arts, where I learned the true ancient craft of granulation that is unlike what any contemporary jeweler is doing today. We even used blowtorches to fasten the beads of gold onto the base of 24-karat gold pieces. It was an amazing time sitting with great artists who had perfected these techniques and were able to pass them on. This is where I gained a great appreciation for the Ancient Greek and Byzantine-era craftsmanship and jewelry artistry.

You studied in Athens with the famed Lalaounis.

Through a friend in NY, I met Greek jewelry designer Ilias Lalaounis. He graciously invited me to visit his factory in Athens and to do a short internship there. I was able to work alongside his finest craftsmen. Also that summer I traveled to Thessaloniki where I saw the Vergina exhibit for the first time. After seeing the crown of Philip, Alexander’s father, I was impassioned and wanted to come home to try and recreate pieces of beauty like that.

You almost didn’t return to Milwaukee.

While  in Greece, my father called and wanted to know if I was going to come home or return to New York to find work. Though I was interviewing with Christie’s and Sotheby’s, I was fueled by a passion for all things Greek. I was eager to come home and put my new skills to work.

When you returned, you began designing stefana.

These hand-crafted pieces, with fine silver and solid gold with genuine gemstones, became the line, “Stefana Eternal.” We sell these in the store, with my exclusive line, “Designs by Paraskevi,” plus limited edition pieces from other designers and manufacturers.

You design Byzantine Crosses.

My father suggested that  I focus on designing Greek crosses. It wasn’t until years later that I began.  Following my marriage and the birth of my first child, I was so inspired by this love, to create a Byzantine-style cross with rose gold and pomegranate-colored garnets. It bears the letters IS XS NI KA. When my daughter was born, I designed one for her as well, then I designed 12 more unique crosses for my nieces, nephews and Godchildren. Each of these is part of the “Crosses Byzantine” collection, which are named for each child for whom it was created. I use sapphires of all hues and tones; rose and green gold and Sterlium (a new metal alloy of sterling silver that is slow to tarnish), to bring contemporary colors to ancient designs. They’re fabricated by hand at our shop in Milwaukee.

Your work has appeared in magazines and galleries.

It’s exhibited in galleries in NY, The Hamptons, Dallas, LA and the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago. Additionally, my work has been featured in many publications, including Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Mademoiselle, Brides and Modern Bride. My pieces have been worn by celebrities, and have even been featured on television shows, including the soap opera, “As the World Turns.”

You’re going to Chicago.

I’ll have a booth at the Greektown Festival on August 27 and 28. Come by and see me.

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