Zoe Cassavetes and Ileana Makri Release a Fine Jewelry Ode to Greek History

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Cassavetes and Makri were introduced by a mutual friend during the pandemic and quickly bonded over their shared love of jewelry and Greek history. “Ileana is the coolest woman I’ve ever met,” says Cassavetes. The two worked on the collection exclusively over Zoom, a meeting of the minds that Cassavetes says, “actually saved my brain during lockdown.”

Designer Ileana Makri wearing pieces from the 1821 Liberty Collection. 

Photo: Courtesy of Ileana Makri

Makri, who has worked with talismans like the evil eye in the past, dug deep into Greek history to unearth victory symbols to use in the collection. “I came across a series of banners raised by several leaders of the Greek Revolution, and I thought they were absolutely stunning. They all had that deeper sense of freedom that led to naming this capsule collection Liberty,” says Makri. “Each piece is an ode to freedom which, for me, is the greatest value in life. Without it, there is no life.”

The “Jerusalem Cross” ring. 

Photo: Courtesy of Ileana Makri

The collection is a history lesson wrapped in diamonds and gold. There is the Jesus Christ Victorious pendant, crafted out of 18k white gold and featuring blue sapphires in a cross shape. It symbolizes the flag raised by General Dimitrios Plapoutas during the uprising of the city of Tripolitsa in 1818. Another beautiful and fact-packed piece is a ring based on the Flag of Kastelorizo. Made from 18k white gold and enamel, it includes a heart made from rubies to symbolize love, and an anchor and cross made of blue diamonds that signal hope and faith. The rings and pendants open like a locket, similar to a poison ring—a style that holds something beneath the bezel—a motif that Cassavetes and Makri chose to use throughout the collection.

Cassavetes, who is half Greek on her father’s side (her father was film director John Cassavetes), took the project as an opportunity to dig deeper into her background. “Of course, being Greek, it is an homage to my roots,” she says. “It is interesting to me because as you get older, you’re like, ‘What is my history again?’ Someone told you [about it] when you were young, then you live your life, and eventually, you’re like, ‘Oh, I’d love to learn more about where I came from and learn about these people.’ Also, it is an incredible civilization.”

Cassavetes wearing the War Ensign 1821 ring. 

Photo: Courtesy of Zoe Cassavetes

Cassavetes models the pieces in a quite modern way, throwing a pendant necklace over a white T-shirt or wearing a ring with a classic white button-down. And though her love of all things Greek is from her father, her obsession with jewelry hails from her mother, the actor Gena Rowlands. “I come from an old school mother and grandmother who donned a lot of jewelry all the time. It seemed really normal and very powerful and chic,” says Cassavetes. “Life is too short, so let me just put on all my jewelry and just wear it!”

The “Jesus Christ Victorious” necklace. 

Photo: Courtesy of Ileana Makri

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