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Past Master

Nikos Ioannou takes inspiration from Cyprus’s ancient treasures to create exquisite jewellery. Natalie Anastasi meets the man and his equally inspired son

Feature

by Natalie Anastasi

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Each one of Nikos Ioannou’s showrooms is a treasure trove of exquisite jewels. His signature Archaic collection is inspired by jewellery findings in Cyprus that date as far back as 3000BC and every piece is hand crafted, copying the exact techniques used in ancient times. The authenticity of colours, textures and unique forms make this range unparalleled in the jewellery world. But while his designs are a true homage to Cyprus’s archaeological heritage, their timeless elegance means that they do not look out of place on even the most fashionable of catwalks.

Ioannou began his training in the art of jewellery-making at the age of just 10. By 15 he had qualified and was adept at ‘the basics’, such as silver wedding bands and crosses. Taking on an apprenticeship in Larnaca, he honed his skills until he had the means to open his own shop in the capital Nicosia on 18 December 1961, a date that rolls off his tongue as if he were telling the time. At first it was just a small room with the bare essentials. He now has eight showrooms and outlets in Cyprus, is recognised as one of the most prestigious jewellery designers on the island and his pieces are sought after all over the world. 

‘Once you have felt how this jewellery is made, the uniqueness of it and the culture and energy behind it, you will become addicted to it and you won’t want to wear anything else,’ Ioannou’s son and chief designer Yiannos explains proudly. ‘People get a lot of positive attention from wearing this kind of jewellery because it is so different. The jewellery is made to enhance the wearer, but at the same time it exudes the essential element of culture which makes it even more special.’ As chief designer, Yiannos works closely with the archaeology department of Cyprus and his team of five workmen who are skilled in the ancient techniques of hand hammering, filigree and hand forming. Everything is produced in-house.

Nikos Ioannou can pinpoint exactly how this passion for the ancient began. ‘When I was young I went on a school trip to an old church in my village and I found my first ancient artefact. It was a statue of a queen.’ This single boyhood experience triggered a lifelong interest in history and led to a sequence of events that has made him what he is today – an undeniable success.

The drive to preserve and retell history through jewellery also led to Ioannou founding the Cyprus Jewellery Museum in Nicosia in 1992. Using pieces from a personal collection that he had amassed over the years along with many donations, Ioannou was able to turn a lifelong ambition into reality. In 2007, he was granted a license to run the museum as a non-profit organisation for the next 25 years under the governing body of the Cyprus jewellers association.

As well as their famous Archaic line, Nikos and Yiannos Ioannou lay claim to two other equally stunning collections. Yiannos describes them with typical artistic flair: ‘The Princess line is very elaborate and more fashion orientated but still has a classical style to it. It tries to keep the beat in a slightly reserved way so you have an everlasting piece.’ The backdrop of the range is mainly white gold, but the pieces are embellished with small diamonds and an array of colourful gems such as amethyst, citrine, aquamarine and smoky quartz. ‘We play with colours, sometimes even going for more extreme colours such as green amethyst and pink tourmaline. They’re fancier, more delicate and much more rare.’ The Contemporary line is more classic and made up of heavier pieces, featuring yellow and white gold, emeralds, rubies, sapphires and diamonds, among other precious materials.

No one could accuse Nikos Ioannou of not looking forward. His son Yiannos has been primed to take the company to new heights. A graduate of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, he has inherited his father’s enthusiasm and jewellery genius. In addition to his work with the company’s three established lines, Yiannos offers a bespoke jewellery design service and creates unique pieces to suit an individual’s personality and style. He already has a long list of delighted clients. What’s next? Having already made a name for themselves in Cyprus, Nikos and Yiannos plan to make their jewellery, and the story it tells, more accessible internationally through their new website, which is undoubtedly good news for jewellery aficionados everywhere. 

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