Faith, Hellenism, and timeless beauty inspire second generation designer, goldsmith, artist, and gemologist Vivian Anton of Paul’s Jewelers.
Hellenic inspiration at Paul’s Jewelers
Paraskevi Polychronis Antonopoulos is an amalgamation of Greek names invoking images of faith, timelessness, and Hellenism. Inspired by these images, this jewelry designer, artist, goldsmith, and graduate gemologist known to friends as Vivian Anton, is a second-generation jeweler. She continues the family tradition at Paul’s Jewelers in Milwaukee.
History of Paul’s Jewelers
Vivian’s father, Polychronis (Paul), hailed from the mountains of Andritsaina near Olympia. With hopes of visiting America one day, he became a Merchant Marine short-wave radio operator on Aristotle Onassis’ ships. On a ship he met a woman who would arrange a marriage for him to her young niece from Milwaukee. Polychronis journeyed to the States to marry his intended, Marousa, a Greek-American schoolteacher with roots in Kythera.
Polychronis was skilled at working with his hands. As he pursued his own American dream, Marousa’s family encouraged him to begin repairing watches. Paul’s Jewelers was born when he opened a storefront property on Milwaukee’s South Side in 1967.
Paul later mentored a niece and nephew, who went on to operate successful jewelry businesses in Florida and Athens.
Meet Vivian Anton
Vivian and her brother Nikolaos, grew up in Milwaukee, and in the family business.
She and her husband, Peter Limberatos, have two children. The family is very active at both Annunciation and SS Constantine and Helen Churches in Milwaukee. As lay-advisor to the Young Adult League of Milwaukee, she also co-chairs the annual Pan-Orthodox Youth Day. Hosted by the Orthodox Clergy Syndesmos of Wisconsin at the St. Iakovos Retreat Center in Kansasville, WI, it gathers hundreds of Orthodox youth and families from all ethnic backgrounds.
Honing her craft
Vivian became passionate about jewelry while serving as an apprentice to her father. She studied Secondary Education at the University of Wisconsin, but it was her minor in Art that led her to pursue a career in design.
“My father then insisted I attend the masters program at the world-renowned Gemological Institute of America in NY.”
In NY, she also studied at the famous Kulicke-Stark Academy of Jewelry Arts, where she gained a great appreciation for Ancient Greek and Byzantine-era craftsmanship and jewelry artistry.
Later, she was introduced to Greek jewelry designer Ilias Lalaounis. He invited Vivian to visit his factory in Athens and do a short internship there.
“On a trip to Thessaloniki, I saw the Vergina exhibit. After seeing the crown of Philip, Alexander’s father, I was impassioned and wanted to come home to recreate pieces of beauty like that. I was so moved, that I passed on an interview with Sotheby’s Auction House, and came home to begin designing for Paul’s Jewelers.”
Exploring faith and heritage
She came home to a new location for Paul’s Jewelers, developed as a design home for Vivian and her brother. There, she began designing Greek-inspired jewels. Vivian created handcrafted stefana in fine silver, solid gold, and genuine gemstones, which became the collection, “Stefana Eternal”.
Then Vivian’s father suggested she focus on designing Greek crosses but it would be years before she heeded this advice.
“He said I was missing a tremendous opportunity to explore my faith and heritage in more depth. He was right.”
Inspired by her son’s birth, she created a Byzantine-style baptismal cross for him, using rose gold and pomegranate-colored garnets. It bears the letters IS XS NI KA – ‘Jesus Christ Victorious’. Her daughter’s birth inspired yet another design.
“Then I created 10 more unique crosses for nephews, nieces, and Godchildren”.
Each of these is part of the ‘Crosses Byzantine’ collection utilizing sapphires of all hues; rose gold, green gold, and sterlium (a new, slow-to-tarnish metal alloy), bringing contemporary colors to ancient designs. She hopes the crosses will become heirlooms, passed down through generations.
“Worn throughout our lives, a cross is something that ties us to eternity. It reflects our faith, protects our soul, and reminds us all of Christ. What other earthly treasure includes all this?”
Stefana to commemorate church’s 100th anniversary
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Annunciation Church in Milwaukee, where Vivian has been a lifelong member, she was commissioned to create a set of gold vermeil stefana. The stefana were a celebratory gift to his Eminence Archbishop Demetrios. They now hang in the Archdiocese offices in New York.
Her work has been exhibited in galleries in Manhattan, The Hamptons, Dallas, Los Angeles, and at the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago. Additionally, her work has been featured in Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Mademoiselle, Brides, and more.
Vivian’s pieces have been commissioned and worn by celebrities like Greek rapper So Tiri, Nia Vardalos, Jenni Pulos, Steve ‘Be the Bee’ Christoforou, Olympic diver Christina Loukas, and others.
50th anniversary of Paul’s Jewelers
2017 marks the 50th anniversary of Paul’s Jewelers. Vivian keeps her father’s legacy alive with new designs and a continued commitment to artistic values and a commemoration of her rich heritage.
A brand new website was launched this month, to kick off the celebration.
“We’re gratified by our long history in retail, however, being online allows us to serve the global community. It’s very exciting.”
More to come
Vivian continues be inspired by her Orthodox faith and Greek heritage. She credits her father’s lessons for her success.
“Growing up in the family business, we were taught values of pride for our Greek faith and heritage, commitment to education, and the importance of hard work. We are guided by these values. On to the next 50 years of Paul’s Jewelers — and beyond!”
Watch for more stunning designs from this talented artist.
View Paul’s Jewelers collections online, including stefana, pendants, baptismal crosses, and more. They also do repair and custom work. Paul’s Jewelers, 10822 W. National Ave., West Allis, WI. Phone 414.321.5764.