In celebration of our new exhibition, Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World, we present a collection of jewelry inspired by the natural beauty of present-day Greece. Created by artist Fotini Liami, these pieces were made using techniques from the past. The Museum’s exhibition surveys the artistry and technical achievement of the three centuries between Alexander the Great’s death in 323 B.C. and the establishment of the Roman Empire in the first century B.C. Altogether, the exhibition presents nearly 270 works of art ranging from marble and bronze sculptures to gold jewelry, glass vessels, and engraved gems.
Following a formal education in English literature, Greek designer Fotini Liami began creating jewelry inspired by the beauty of her homeland in 1987. “There was something inside me that wanted to express itself,” she says. “I was always fascinated by the colors of the earth, the stunning light of Greece, its incredible seas in shades of blue, and its magnificent skies. All these have moved me since I was a child. I think that it was an inner power which has guided my life completely.”
Lacking a formal education in jewelry making or design, Liami began experimenting with Murano glass, antique African trade beads, semiprecious stones, and crystals. With each new material she explored, she discovered new possibilities, inspirations, and limitations. Over the years, her designs have become more skilled and intricate through her continued study of techniques and materials.
From the beginning, Liami was inspired by artisan metalwork traditional to Greece. The ancient Greeks were famous for their highly skilled goldsmiths, whose work is now preserved in museums (including The Met). Today, contemporary craftspeople still revere these creations for their incredible intricacy.
Liami sought training from a master goldsmith, who, imparting the importance of handwork, taught her about the process from prototype to final product. “All metals are cut by hand because we want them to have little discrepancies that make them unique. They are hammered by hand, polished, and finally gold plated by hand. We use a very light bronze leaf so that the piece is light like a feather, but doesn’t lose its sense of weight and gravity,” says Liami. The combination of these historical techniques contributes to what the artist calls calls a “fairy elegance” paired with easy wearability, thanks to the lightness and movement of the piece in response to the body.
Each of Liami’s collections is inspired first by material, which changes seasonally, as well as by musings from her travels or simply the environment of her studio. “Different civilizations always give a new perspective: fantastic imagery and fresh ideas. Simply scattered beads and metals may give me a divine idea for a whole collection, and usually that’s how it starts,” says Liami.