As I grow older, tradition and cultural identity are two things that I increasingly cherish and admire. I look out for them not only when I’m abroad, on a quest to unearth the tales of the world but also when I’m in an all-familiar setting, one I falsely think I know too well; home.

Over the last decade, if I dare I say so, I’ve noticed societies express a deeper interest in tradition and in keeping a culture’s customs alive. In the case of Cyprus, a historical land quickly flooding with foreign investment and tourism, it’s incredibly heart-warming to see large music festivals taking place in villages, workshops on traditional crafts and all sorts of actions bridging the gap between modern-day and tradition.

So, I was thrilled when I discovered a Cypriot female entrepreneur resurrecting an old jewellery technique and bringing it back into the market. Eleni Nicolaou is the face behind Sea of Lace, a start-up with an important message to share. So, let’s cut to the chase:

Hi Eleni, first of all, can you tell us what Sea of Lace is exactly?

Sea of Lace (SOL) is a Cypriot jewellery brand that is focused on a specific jewellery technique: the filigree. What is special about this technique, apart from that it is one of the most delicate types of jewellery metalwork, is that it is a 5000-year-old technique that is now on the verge of extinction. Unfortunately, these days, very few jewellers are left practising filigree. Sea of Lace is my passionate effort to support the fading art and showcase to the world our tradition. The name of the brand is inspired by the sea that surrounds my beautiful island and by the technique itself as it often suggests lace.

How was SOL born?

I was abroad for 10 years for work and travel. When I returned to Cyprus in the summer of 2017, I accidentally discovered these traditional, ornamental beauties in a souvenir shop in Paphos. I instantly fell in love but what got me eager to discover more was when the owner of the shop told me that they were made by Cypriot artisans. For a year an idea was swirling in my head but I didn’t dare act on it. You see, I hadn’t expressed that much interest in jewellery before nor had any knowledge of the industry. It took some time to finally create Sea of Lace and so in late 2018 I put together, all by myself, www.seaoflace.com. I was persuaded by then that ideas come and go but the ones that stick with you deserve an aligned action.

What drew you to this art?

Honestly, I was just mesmerised by the work itself. I couldn’t believe the detail and the artistry that was put into it because every metal thread is made by hand. I remember holding a silver necklace at the souvenir shop and just examining it for minutes. It is unlike any other jewellery piece you have and if you just take a closer look, you will start seeing the influence that this technique has on the jewellery evolution in general. Next time you go to a museum, visit the costume or jewellery section and you will, for sure, find a filigree item there. They are not just beautiful pieces of jewellery, they are history.

What is your role in SOL?

I am responsible for everything you see on and off the website. I get to work closely with the local workshop suggesting alterations in order to bring the pieces closer to the everyday. I curate all photoshoots either with my camera or with a professional photographer. This period, I am also in constant contact with wholesalers, boutiques and influencers in order to increase the reputation and selling points of SOL pieces. As a female entrepreneur, I seize to work with other like-minded business women either with brand collaborations or for photography, editing and other creative jobs. From visualisation to manifestation I find SOL, a feminine energy brand at its core.

SOL Founder Eleni Nicolaou

How did you find the local artist you are working with and what should we know about him?

Finding a local filigree workshop wasn’t as easy as I thought. After several visits to the villages, I sadly discovered that no Cypriot jewellery maker was dealing with this technique any more. An artisan told me that he felt underpaid for the amount of work and time he had to spent on each item, plus the local shops were importing cheaper replicas from other countries, such as India and Indonesia. I was ready to give up hope when a jewellery maker in Lefkara village gave me a phone number. ‘’Call Mr Andros’’ he said, “He is the only one left practising filigree and he has mastered it’’, and so with the tail tucked between my legs I paid a visit to his workshop. While slowly sipping a Cypriot coffee he offered me and discreetly examining his pieces, I knew I had finally found ‘The One’.

What’s special about the Cypriot filigree technique?

Filigree is an art that was practised mostly in Europe and Asia from 3000 BC. It has its origin in Mesopotamia and Egypt. From there it travelled to Europe (Portugal, France, Italy) and Asia. After mastering the technique, the artisans could use their imagination and cultural influencers to create their pieces. Therefore, the Cypriot filigree is no different in terms of the procedure of making but in terms of shapes and meaning. For example, pomegranate pieces are traditional and a long-lived symbol in Cyprus so, a pomegranate filigree design is an immediate identification of Cypriot origin item.

There is an obvious interest in tradition with SOL’s creations. What is it you love about Cypriot tradition that you are, in a way, trying to preserve?

I truly love all the traditions. Everywhere I go, I search for the story behind the place and its people. That may be a remnant of my Bachelor’s in History but I always have an eye for some sort of identification. What makes a place unique and different? The same desire arose upon my return to Cyprus. Cypriot tradition is based on mythical and heroic creatures, stories from locals and conquerors. I value that and I want to preserve the work of my ancestors by bringing their designs closer to the everyday jewels of the ladies.

Is this type of jewellery, that’s highly intricate and unique to Cyprus, popular on the island? 

I wouldn’t say so! When seaoflace.com went live in December 2018 no one knew what these jewellery were or why they were so important for our tradition. People were telling me that they looked beautiful or they were asking me If I am the one designing them, so basically, they were oblivious of this technique just as I was before discovering it. By Christmas 2018 many ladies were sending me pictures wearing the SOL pieces and that particularly touched me because seeing these traditional pieces on young women was one of my first goals coming to fruition.

What do you want people to feel when they wear SOL jewellery?

I want them to feel that they are part of something bigger, something as special as they are. I consider people who buy SOL jewellery not just customers but allies on this adventure I started. Each purchase brings me closer in reviving this traditional profession and I want people to know exactly what they are paying for. With so many jewellery brands and with the easiness of creating an e-shop nowadays it is super vital for SOL’ s message to come across loud and clear. There are no hidden secrets here, what it seems is what it is.

From what I know, you are now adding a contemporary touch to the traditional design. Can you tell us more about that?

SOL has its primary focus on this specific technique. As a brand, we will never sell any other jewellery but we will definitely play around with materials and designs. At the moment, we create filigree jewellery with Sterling Silver 925 and Gold Plated using traditional designs.  So, on some, we add a twist to the traditional design and on others, we keep the original design. The modernization will come slowly and will always have in mind the traditional technique.

What would you like to achieve with SOL?

I hate to admit that the workshop I am working with is possibly the last one left on the island, therefore, the success of the brand will help me to create a small workshop and train with Mr Andros one or two artisans to keep the production going.

How can people find you?

People can find me on all social media platforms but honestly, I would prefer a call.

Website: www.seaoflace.com
Instagram: @seaoflacejewelry
Facebook: S  E A O F L A C E
Email me at eleni@seaoflace.com  or call at 00357 99339540