Get to Know … Ileana Makri

Athens, Greece—based Ileana Makri makes jewelry that people immediately understand. For example, superstitious inhabitants of Mediterranean countries recognize the evil eye as a symbol that wards off negative energy. Replicas of sandals and skateboards bring to mind carefree times and leisure activities, while guns and hinged hand grenades that open represent societal paranoia and fear of terrorist threats. And a tiny toilet—with a lid and seat that both lift—stands for “all the things [junk television and magazines] that should be flushed down the toilet,” says Makri. “Symbolism is a universal language that’s stronger than words.”

In her teens Makri collaborated with a Greek manufacturer to get her first pieces made. As an adult, she opened a gift shop with an international flavor and, in 1996, she launched her first jewelry collection. Now, Greek bench jewelers help bring Makri’s designs to life. All her jewelry is symbolic and features micropavé as well as another uniquely Makri element: multiple hues of 18k gold including white, yellow, rose, and oxidized yellow or rose. “Women think they have to stick with one style or color of gold, but I personally think that gold is beautiful in all colors and should be mixed,” she notes.

Makri’s newest collection, Mesopotamia, pays homage to the cradle of civilization between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers; the look and texture of the jewelry represent its sand dunes and desert landscape.

Makri’s hands don’t finish every piece, but she does know what to do at the bench and turns out styles herself when time permits. She completed a jewelry design course at the Gemological Institute of America in Culver City, Calif., and continues to take manufacturing and production classes in Greece to hone her skills and develop her understanding of the business. For example, courses in fabrication help her refine designs. Her jewelry is both cast and fabricated, depending on the design, and all finishing, including stone-setting, is done by hand. She primarily uses diamonds that are one point or less and uses only gems and gold acquired through nonconflict sources.

“I do have confirmation in writing [that purchases are conflict-free], but honestly, there is no other guarantee better than knowing the person you work with and understanding that they feel the same way you feel [on the topic],” she says of her suppliers.

Makri has 20 accounts in the United States, including Barneys New York, as well as 20 more abroad. She doesn’t currently exhibit at any jewelry trade fairs. Reach her at (30-210) 725 1471 or online at www.makri.gr.