Explore Philadelphia

Steven Lagos on Jewels, Travel & "His" Philadelphia

Jewelry designer Steven Lagos tells us what inspires his classic LAGOS collection and reveals a couple of Philly's own hidden gems.

Designer Steven Lagos founded his namesake jewelry company over 30 years ago. His iconic pieces have been featured on the pages of W Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, Lucky Magazine, Elle and more. The “My LAGOS, My Way” campaign, which launched this fall, showcases the timelessness and versatility of the jewelry. Here, Lagos talks style, travel and Philadelphia’s hidden gems.

Tell me about the new “My LAGOS, My Way” campaign.

It’s the culmination of the long-term evolution of our collection. We’ve been in business now since 1977 and we’ve been making jewelry for 38 years and one of the things we noticed is that women buy our jewelry and they wear it all the time in their own way. They wear it with their watches. They wear it with other jewelry they have. Layering is so big right now.

To what to you attribute the LAGOS collection’s longevity?

From the beginning of time and throughout history, everywhere in the world, people have worn jewelry to mark occasions. It is a part of people’s lives. Jewelry is one of these things that no matter what piece of jewelry you have, it has a meaning to you. Even if you bought it for yourself, you probably remember when you bought it, why you bought it or what you were thinking and feeling at the time.

How did your career as a jewelry designer begin?

I grew up wanting to be an artist. In high school, I started making some flatwear jewelry—bending spoons and forks with beautiful designs on them. I then got a job in a jewelry store in Wayne, PA, Wayne Jewelers. I was the stock boy there and met a Russian master jeweler, who worked on special orders, repairs and services. He taught me about the tradition of jewelry and inspired me. In 1977, I moved to Philadelphia and started my own business and have been in Center City ever since.

From where do you draw inspiration?

I study people and I’m a student of all things design. Popular culture, architecture, interior design, fine art, travel—all these things play into the psyche of people and how they are relating back to the world. 

What is the best-selling LAGOS piece of all time?

Our classic caviar bracelet is the icon of the collection and our best-selling piece, whether it has ornamentation, diamonds, colored stones, all silver or two-toned. 

LAGOS Caviar bracelet
The LAGOS Caviar bracelet is the best-selling piece of jewelry and icon of the collection. (Courtesy LAGOS)

What do you see in the future for LAGOS?

The future looks like the past. We’re going to stay relevant. We’re going to continue to make jewelry for women. LAGOS has a fashion focus, but it’s not trendy. We’ve started working with some new materials and playing around with our classic shapes, the caviar design being ever-present. We’re jewelers. We know exactly what our heritage and our legacy are.

What are a couple of Philly’s hidden gems?

Some gems are hidden, and others are not so hidden. Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods. That’s the charm of the city. I love tooling around all the different neighborhoods. I’m also into the fine arts so The Barnes Foundation is just incredible, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a world-class institution.

Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum rises majestically at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. (©B. Krist/Visit Philadelphia)

Favorite places to eat?

I’m an eclectic diner. I’m not eating at all the top tier places, although I do enjoy those. I like El Camino Real and tapas at Amada. I really enjoy the restaurants on the 18th Street corridor; Parc, Rouge, a.kitchen, Continental Mid-town and The Dandelion Pub. I like to go to Ville di Roma, down on 9th Street in the heart of the Italian Market in South Philly. 

How do you spend the holidays?

With my family here in Philadelphia. We’re a big Greek family. It’s about eating, drinking and being together. That’s really our tradition.

If you could wake up anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would that be?

Right now, I love the idea of going to South America, exploring Brazil and Peru and seeing what is going on in those cultures. I travel a lot, but that’s a part of the world I haven’t spent much time in. 

Are your travels always work related?

I take three or four inspiration trips every year. This year, I went to Napal and Los Angeles. 

If you could sit next to any person on a plane, who would they be?

Louis Cartier. He was the man of the hour in the 1920’s. He created the Cartier Company and had real vision for what he was doing. I think I could relate to him quite a bit.

Where next?

I’m on my way to Thailand for a few weeks. We do a lot of gem buying and cutting there. It’s a very special country. The people have free minds and are really creative and super nice.