Jewelry Designer Steven Lagos. Courtesy of LAGOS

As a self-taught master jeweler, Steven Lagos began his illustrious career at just nineteen years old in the Philadelphia jewelry district, quickly establishing himself as a pioneer in designer fine jewelry. His renowned Caviar design, introduced in 1984, epitomizes innovation and personal expression. Lagos’s unique blend of traditional craftsmanship with modern technology is exemplified in creations like the Smart Caviar bracelet for the Apple Watch, which won the 2023 Accessories Council Design Excellence Award for Fine Jewelry.

Steven’s passion extends beyond jewelry to art collecting, where he gathers pieces that resonate with him personally and professionally, including works from Picasso, Keith Haring, and Kaws. These collections, displayed in LAGOS brand’s offices and showrooms, are a testament to his philosophy of infusing creativity into every facet of his business.

The Untitled Magazine’s Indira Cesarine caught up with Steven Lagos to chat about his journey from a budding jeweler to a trendsetting designer, the evolution of his signature Caviar collection, and his innovative approach to jewelry making. Lagos also delves into how his art collection inspires his work and the future vision for the LAGOS brand. Read on and discover the story behind a man who has not only crafted exquisite pieces but also carved a distinctive narrative in the world of fine jewelry.

LAGOS Smart Caviar Collection. Photo Courtesy LAGOS

We love your collections, so stunning, luxurious, and innovative all at the same time. Can you tell us about how you got started as a jeweler?  I understand you were self-taught, which is pretty incredible! 

I always knew I wanted to do something creative with my life. I grew up at a time in the ‘70s when there was a real focus on craft and working with your hands. I started out with a small trade shop and began learning from the more seasoned jewelers in Philadelphia’s jewelry district. They took me under their wing, and I learned all the skills needed to become a master jeweler. I didn’t want to be limited by my skills so now I can create anything I dream up. Fast forward almost 50 years, I have over 10,000 designs under my belt, and we produce around 200,000 pieces of jewelry a year.

You launched your brand’s signature collection Caviar back in 1984, what is the ethos of the collection? 

At the core of LAGOS is our signature Caviar design, which is handcrafted, luminous beading that is present on every piece in every collection. I was originally inspired by a hematite necklace that had the same rich color and shape as real caviar. It felt synonymous with luxury and the vision I had for the brand, so I started incorporating it into all my designs. Caviar adds texture, dimension, and movement so each piece is comfortable for everyday wear and feels like a second skin.

We’re best known for our classic two-tone designs, featuring intricate Caviar beading in 18k gold and sterling silver. And after much research and development we introduced jewelry-grade ceramic into our collections. Ceramic provides an exciting opportunity for me to experiment with color in a way that’s distinctive and ownable to LAGOS.

LAGOS Collection. Photo Courtesy LAGOS

Can you tell us about the campaign you developed around the Caviar collection encouraging personal expression?

My designs have always been inspired by the strong, smart, sophisticated women in my life. In the early ‘90s, I noticed a trend towards more women purchasing jewelry for themselves. This trend continued so I focused on designing options that empower the wearer and encourage personal expression. We developed our national campaign “MY LAGOS MY WAY” to reinforce these core values and inspire the LAGOS woman.

Your award-winning Smart Caviar collection for the Apple watch is brilliant – I love the way it makes wearing the watch a more elevated experience and the way you can pair it with your wardrobe for day or night.  What inspired you to create the collection back in 2018?

When I first saw the Apple watch, I was intrigued by the design, but I felt like something was missing. The woman who wears an Apple watch is a professional, she’s busy, she’s using it to stay connected and basically run her life. It’s beautiful and functional, but I wanted to offer a fine jewelry bracelet that would help elevate the sporty look of the piece. Now we have more than 20 options in sterling silver, stainless steel, 18k gold and colorful ceramic, so women can stay connected in style.

LAGOS Collection. Photo Courtesy LAGOS

The Smart Caviar collection has over 20 styles, and I understand this year you launched Smart Caviar Lux – can you tell us about the collections and what makes Smart Caviar Lux special? 

I like to explore different materials and offer options so that every woman can find something she loves. Smart Caviar Lux is more Caviar-forward, it features our 18k gold superfine beading that helps elevate it from our everyday styles. And for those who prefer a more luxury look, we have a version with brilliant diamonds that really pop next to the 18k gold textured beading.

I understand you are also an avid art collector and have filled your LAGOS Philadelphia office, NY showroom, and Bangkok studio with your art collection – what artists can we find in your collection? Are you inspired by any particular genre of artwork, if so you can tell us why that resonates with you?  Also, any recent acquisitions? 

Art serves as a daily inspiration for me. I surround myself with works that speak to me visually and on an emotional level. They represent my passions and travels. I have a 10-foot teak wood carving from a monastery in Burma depicting the Life of Buddha, an Othoniel sculpture that resembles our Caviar beading, pieces from KAWS, Picasso, Shepard Fairey, and a collection of original Man Ray prints (a Philadelphia native). Most of my collection is modern art with a focus on Japanese artists like Nara, Madsaki, Murakami, Sticky Monger, and Mr. I like to find pieces that are uplifting and make people smile. Recently, I added a set of eight early Keith Haring drawings that were originally a gift to his childhood friend.

LAGOS Collection. Photo Courtesy LAGOS

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a jewelry designer? 

A: Discover what differentiates your designs and create your own lane. The designers that find longevity have a distinctive style and offer unique options that fill a customer’s need.

What’s next for you? Any exciting plans you can share for 2024?

A: I’m excited to share that we just launched our debut Men’s collection in January 2024. I’ve been asked for years to design for men. The time was finally right – there seems to be more freedom in fashion right now, and over the years we’ve seen an increase in men purchasing our existing collections. I love to see that and wanted to offer styles designed especially with men in mind. LAGOS for men features the same expert Caviar craftsmanship you expect from LAGOS but with rock n’ roll details. Chunky bracelets, bold rings, amulets, and chains. It is fine jewelry with an attitude. 

For more from Steven Lagos, follow Lagos Jewelry on Instagram

Where Art, Fashion & Culture Collide

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