Jaipur Congress Executive Organizer
At the age of four, Yianni Melas heard a story that Napoleon Bonaparte had given his great-great-grandfather a sword studded with jewels. And even better, a piece of this treasure was apparently buried in the backyard. Soon thereafter, Melas' backyard in Greece became filled with holes, as he embarked on what has now evolved as a lifetime's search for treasure.
Melas' love for gems also grew from visits to his godfather's jewelry store. Having family roots from San Benito Texas, he was sent to school in the United States in 1974, and eventually found his way to the Gemological Institute of America. After graduating, he became an instructor at the GIA and was known for his dynamic teaching style. He was also involved in helping catalogue the John Sinkankas library of ancient, antique and contemporary books, which was acquired by GIA in the 1980s. He became even more engrossed in gems, with a growing passion to follow these gems to their source.
While at the GIA, Melas met Helmut Swarovski, CEO of the renowned optics and glass empire, based in Austria. Melas and Swarovski bonded immediately through their love of gems and decided together to begin Swarovski's first Natural Gemstone Division. Soon thereafter, Melas began working for Swarovski by acquiring rough from several remote locations around the world. He focused on making connections with local people everywhere he went, and through this work began to see the positive effects the gem trade could have in developing nations.
Of his experiences in remote locations, Melas says: "Being a rough gem trader is like being a correspondent for CNN. You can never say where you're going next; it depends on where the action is! It is interesting to note that God never placed major finds of gems close to metropolitan areas. Instead, they are located some place where there's malaria or elephantitis, or where native people might chase you with spears and machetes. You think of the most miserable places on earth and that's where God sprinkled gemstones. Its like he put them there in hopes that the people could make something of their lives from them."
Nonetheless, Melas has enormous respect for the people he has met in distant localities. "Individuals want to work with pride instead of being given handouts," explains Melas; this mantra he says is based upon his vast experiences in the field.
In 2004, after fourteen years at Swarovski, he joined the Lev Leviev Group, a leading diamond manufacturer. Through his work he sought to develop Botswana's gem industry, with the belief that supporting an industry with business opportunities would help create jobs, and would allow self-empowerment to thrive.
After completing a series of goals in Botswana on behalf of Leviev, Melas met well-known American designer, David Yurman. A long friendship based on their mutual love of jewelry, gems and quarter horses began then. Melas became a personal gemstone adviser to Mr. David Yurman for several years. In 2010, Melas decided to embark on his own jewelry design collection.
In 2011 he was given the great honor to be the "Master of Ceremonies" for the international event, "Mines To Market" a prestigious, Indian government sponsored series of talks taking place in Jaipur. In October 2017 he was asked by the ICA (International Colored Stone Organization to be the Executive Organizer of the most prestigious conference on Colored Stones. Furthermore, he was once again been asked by the Indian Government specifically the Trade Ministry to be the Master Coordinator and MOC for the International "2019 Mines to Market" Conference in Jaipur. This year he is launching his trademarked jewelry brand, YIANNI MELAS™. More recently, Melas was made a Director for Florida-based treasure exploration company, Blue Water Ventures, with projects in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean. In addition he will also hold the posts of Chief Gemologist and Designer.
In 2017 he was voted as Adviser to the globally recognized "Ethical Metalsmiths Organization". He has been a speaker at several international conferences and
Universities over the years including AGA-Accredited Gemologist's Association in Tucson 2017 as well as for Inorgenta Gem and Jewelry show 2017 in Munich. He is a regular guest for Gemporia TV out of the U.K. where he is a kind of celebrity and expert for the live Jewelry Chanel.
In 2015 VOGUE PARIS named him the "Modern Indiana Jones of our century." His adventures are followed by nearly twenty thousand loyal fans on his Instagram page GEMEXPLORER. In 2015 he became part of the history books when he discovered a brand new blue green gem in Africa, never discovered before, which he named AQUAPRASE™. Famous Author Antoinette Matlins named it the first gem discovery of the 21st Century in her 2016 book on gems. In 2016 he launched a new electric cobalt blue spinel called SANTORINITE™ whose color resembles the colors of the blue domes of Santorini.
In Botswana Africa, the leading newspaper of the country "The Weekend Post" named him one of the most influential leaders of their diamond beneficiation as well as instrumental in lobbying for the building of the Gemological Institute of America in their capital.
Today, Mr. Melas is based out of Limassol, Cyprus, designing and creating jewelry that is inspired by his world travels. He is the designer and inventor of several jewelry patents and trademarks. But while Yianni's love for jewelry design may keep him occupied for the moment, all it takes to send him packing is a simple whiff of buried treasure - somewhere across the globe.