Legends and Silver Myths in Ioannina

In Ioannina, where life meets legend, silversmithing is one of the main expressions of local artistry, and also a link that connects the present to the past. It’s a town with creative people whose art is famous around the world, and its artists are turning the town into an international reference point for creativity.

With the passage of time, Ioannina has maintained its unique commercial features, attracting merchants from all over, since silver objects are still a trend: a collection of silver decorative objects, as well as silverware made of fine silver is a sign of wealth and luxury.

When did they start working with silver in the area? What records can we find? According to research, working on silver has been a part of the everyday life of the residents since the Byzantine era – there are documents dated 1430 that prove that silversmithing was booming. In the following years, there was an increase in exports, while in the 18th and 19th century, there was an increase in the number of silversmiths. It was then that Ioannina emerged as one of the largest trading and artistic centers in the Balkans. So, silver objects, jewellery, and silverware from Ioannina appear in important cities of the times, like Belgrade, Bucharest, Vienna – even Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

(Photo by Nikos Zinas)

At the same time, techniques like the forging, filigree, or niello have become synonymous with Ioannina production resulting in local silver smithery becoming of the highest quality. Each maker chooses the technique that better suits them, and results is objects of the highest quality and reputation continues today.

We visited the workshop of Lambros Golas, a man who has dedicated his whole life to silver. “I started working with silver in 1991,” he told us as he gave us a tour of the workshop. “I trained next to a silversmith. And at the same time, I was a student at the Silversmithing School of Ioannina. And it’s a craft that has given me so much.”

Today efforts are being made to redefine the industry’s goals and highlight best practices, those that also help preserve and promote this particular artform.

We look at the machinery and tools while we learn about each process in detail. “It’s a line of work that if you support it and take care of it it’s really hard to be out of work,” Lambros tells us, who, together with his colleagues Katerina Gkouma and Efi Nikolatou, creates unique works of art that are sold around the globe.

(Photo by Nikos Zinas)

“In the past, before the spread of products made in China and Thailand, there was a much greater demand,” Lambros explains. “Today, even though there’s still a market, we can’t compete with China and Thailand. They have mass production, while we make everything ourselves. Handmade is of better quality, for sure, but at the same time it costs more.” As he tells us, in order to face the conditions and remain active in the market they’ve also expanded in selling online. Nevertheless, Lambros never thought about doing anything else.

On our tour of the workshop, we came to understand how complicated the creation process is, and also the high standards applied. “From starting work on a piece, until it’s ready, we need to complete 35 stages,” Lambros tells us as he shows us some elaborate designs. “You have to choose and process the design, create it, smooth it, and finish it, and many more stages in between, each one contributing to the quality of the final product.”

That’s what silver smithery is about, an art that is struggling to survive, while constantly supplying society with works of art. It requires discipline but also a will to expertly express both good taste and Epirotic tradition.

(Photo by Nikos Zinas)
(Photo by Nikos Zinas)
(Photo by Nikos Zinas)


This article was edited by Dimitris Stathopoulos



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