Greek designer, Stelios Karantonas lives and creates in London. He found his niche in jewellery manufacturing and design, receiving two scholarships and working as a freelance designer/maker in Thessaloniki and Athens, Greece. It came as a natural next step for him to move to London, a melting pot of styles and designs with a centuries-long tradition of craftsmanship.
In 2014 he created his own brand, unveiling his deeply artistic nature and his insatiable inspiration for original creations. All his pieces are hand-made in his Hatton Garden workshop, where he is constantly growing as a designer. We chat with Stelios about growing up in Greece, falling into jewellery design accidentally and why the sky is the limit for his brand.
How did you get into jewellery design?
“To be honest, it happened by accident. I had just finished my studies in Tourism Management and was looking to start something else that would keep me on my feet and help me avoid being stagnant. One of my friends was taking silversmithing and goldsmithing courses at a local faculty and I decided to join. Three months later, I had my first exhibition and quite immediately I found my own stockists in my home town!”
How has your childhood influenced your designs?
“I grew up between Khalkidhiki and Thessaloniki, Greece. My parents naturally played a very important role in my life and my childhood was marked by proximity to nature. Even today, when I have an idea for a piece of jewellery, I find myself realising that often the inspiration has come from a memory of a leaf or a branch on a tree or of a wooden chair in our kitchen back then. It’s hard to discern which ones among my pieces are not the result of a distant memory, stranded in the back of my mind for a long time.”
"I thought it would be interesting to come here and see what I could do in this market"
What drove you to start your own jewellery line?
“I’d already had a few exhibitions in Greece and wanted a new challenge. My other half lived in the UK, which has a great tradition in this sector, so I thought it would be interesting to come here and see what I could do in this market; how I can compare to creators here, how I can evolve and whether I could bring something new and original to the industry.”
Values are hugely important to us at Jewelstreet. What are your core brand values?
“I try to abide by my work ethics, meaning I am careful with the materials I use and where they come from. I like originality but I am not a show-off; my friends say I am quite humble, and I think this translates into my jewellery. I have originality, personality and a certain audacity.”
"I am constantly inspired and anything could give me an idea for a new collection, from a conversation about life with a friend to a double-decker bus on the streets of London."
Where do you create your best work and find inspiration?
“It would be impossible to specify a place where I do my best work. I currently do all of my work at my workshop in Hatton Garden and all of my pieces are designed and hand-made by me personally. I am constantly inspired and anything could give me an idea for a new collection, from a conversation about life with a friend to a double-decker bus on the streets of London.”
Are there any clients you are particularly proud of?
“I am proud of every single one of my clients. What is important to me is that every person who chooses one or more of my pieces really enjoys it and feels they have added something extraordinary to their jewellery collection. It’s very important for me as a designer to have people happy to choose my jewellery without even glancing at the price. This is a sign that I am doing something right!”
"It is not just material, it is a moment"
How do you want someone to feel when they wear your designs?
“I want them to feel themselves. I would like for the piece to become part of their being, as for me every piece has a specific meaning, it is not just material, it is a moment.”
"The sky is the limit. I strongly believe that if you are passionate about something, you never ‘arrive’, as you always compete against yourself."
What has been the highest point of your career as a designer so far?
“It was when I was asked by the owner of the workshop I am renting to tutor new jewellery apprentices, especially because she is an acknowledged jeweller with decades of experience in the industry. I’m currently giving classes there and I love it. That said, every time I see the expression of people wearing my jewellery and loving them is an achievement for me.”
What’s the most meaningful piece of jewellery you’ve ever received?
“It’s an 18kt gold ring with a white diamond, which was given to me years ago by my friend and mentor, Eleni Tezapsidou. I always wear it, no matter which one of my pieces I also wear, regardless of whether they match or not. It has great emotional value for me and represents the period in my life when I found out what my real passion was and, consequently, who I was.”
What does the future hold for your brand?
“The sky is the limit. I strongly believe that if you are passionate about something, you never ‘arrive’, as you always compete against yourself. The better you become, the more you demand from yourself. That does not mean that I am not satisfied or that I do not take the time to enjoy and appreciate what has been achieved so far, but I constantly try to improve and this will not stop, at least not any time soon.”
Stelios Karantonas' collection is available to shop on Jewelstreet here.