Jewelry collection

The Chiwara jewelry collection by Lalaounis

Open to influences from the Lalaounis world, the Greek jewelry house, presents the Chiwara collection. Chiwara jewelry in yellow gold and diamonds is inspired by the sculptural carved headdresses of the Bamana people in West Africa. The chiwara is used in planting and harvesting ceremonies and is associated with fertility and the generation-to-generation transmission of agricultural traditions. There are several variations of chiwara or ci wara as they are also called. Called objects of boli power, they can be masculine or feminine or even abstract and include a stylized antelope shape. During ceremonial rites, the chiwara is worn above a basket on the head, with the person’s body completely concealed under a shaggy raffia cloak.

Lalaounis’ new Chiwara jewelry includes dressier pieces such as these earrings that capture the distinctive triangular markings and sophisticated use of negative space of original African sculptural masks.

Learn more about the history of Lalaounis jewelry here.

Once seen, never forgotten, Chiwara carvings are one of Africa’s most recognizable art forms. Their sleek, clean lines, distinctive triangular markings, and sophisticated use of negative space inspired many 20th-century modernist artists, including Constantin Brâncusi and Fernand Léger. Today, the house pays homage to the famous Chiwara with a line of rings, earrings, necklaces and bracelets in textured gold while Maria Lalaounis, creative director of the Greek jewelry house, brings a precious interpretation to this age-old iconic artifact.

Demetra Lalaounis Auersperg, Co-CEO and Director of International Affairs of the Greek family business, explains: “The elegant, linear and zigzag openwork carvings of these male and female headdresses, as well as the rich symbolism behind them, inspired us to create this minimalist and geometric collection.’

Multilayered Chiwara earrings by Lalaounis

Chiwara jewelry is bold enough to be worn alone or combined with other Lalaounis yellow gold jewelry as seen here.

The Lalaounis jewelry house has a tradition of imbuing its jewelry with stories from different cultures. Ilias Lalaounis, who founded the company in Athens in 1969, began making jewelry inspired by his passion for history and in particular the cultural heritage of his country. His early jewelry echoed the designs of ancient artifacts in evocative, large-scale pieces made using ancient techniques such as hand hammering and filigree work in 18 or 22 karat gold. This was the beginning of the house’s tradition of designing jewelry evoking cultures ranging from the Paleolithic era to the Minoan, Classical and Hellenistic eras and later moving into other civilizations such as the Byzantine, Far Eastern, Celtic, Viking and Native American.

“Since the 1970s, the importance of global ethnic culture has been key to the Lalaounis brand. We are always looking for the common delineator which is a piece of jewelry with a story to tell and interpret it in our unique way. The initial appeal of the Chiwara was visual but the more we studied the subject the more interesting it became because it has such a great story to tell and is about agriculture, the importance of men and women working together and respecting the planet, subjects that are so topical today”, explains Lalaounis Auersperg.

The African theme continues from the highly successful Nubia collection which interpreted the carvings found on Nubian pottery into fine jewelry. Like the Nubia, Chiwara has clean minimalist lines with a strong personality while maintaining the characteristic style of the Lalaounis brand. Textured and polished gold in circles or bars is delicately linked to create jewelry that is airy and light but with striking visual impact. Like all the creations of the Lalaounis firm, the Chiwara is not a literal interpretation but an essence of the style and spirit of the sculptures. Elements such as the zigzag shapes and tapering horns of the stylized antelope are captured in the gold ingots and hoops. The rich, wavy texture of the gold evokes the handmade ethnic appeal of the original Chiwara and the diamonds highlight the carefully honed shapes.

Large round Chiwara earrings by Lalaounis

The sophisticated use of negative space and asymmetrical details embedded in geometric shapes gives Chiwara jewelry by Lalaounis a strong personality and minimalist lines.

Evocative and universal in their simplicity, Chiwara jewelry is easy to wear day or night. Double and triple drop earrings offer a sophisticated dressy look that will go just as well with a kaftan on the beach. Lalaounis is able to create such original and refined jewelry as she has her own manufacturing facility in Athens. Working closely with the design team, each piece of jewelry is tweaked and tweaked until it meets the house’s exacting standards, a luxury few independent jewelry houses can claim.

The timing of Chiwara’s launch corresponds to the growing interest in African art and respect for sources of ancestral knowledge. The spark was first ignited when artistic director Maria Lalaounis saw a sculpture of a chiwara. “Sometimes I see something,” says Lalaounis Auersperg, “sometimes my sister Maria sees something, we think about it and discuss it and when the time is right, we develop the idea. The family philosophy of working together continues in exciting new collections like this, imbued with the signature style and elegance of the Lalaounis house.


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