March 12, 2012

How Portuguese filigree is made



The art of filigree found its origin in the Far East maybe China and India. It's a delicate, lace like ornamental openwork composed of intertwined wire threads of gold - 19.25 Karat gold is used in Portuguese jewellery -or silver. It's known since Greek and Roman civilisations. One of the most ancient known traces of filigree work were a pair of earrings found at Citânia de Briteiros, an Iron Age settlement located near Braga in the northern part of the country. If you are familiar with traditional Minho region folklore, you maybe remember women using several pieces from this art, necklaces and earrings. The gold hearts were considered essential for a bride's dowry in the Minho. 
Filigree is flourishing in Portugal today as it has for generations. Today in the northern area of Portugal there's an active goldsmith industry that produces beautiful works like the ones you can see in the video. Póvoa do Lanhoso and Gondomar are the most representative places. It is a demanding art requiring patience and skill, consisting of curling, twisting and plaiting fine, pliable threads of metal and uniting them  by means of gold or silver solder and borax. Very delicate work is generally protected by a framework of heavier wire. Popular motifs are the butterfly but also hearts, the barco rabelo, - a vessel that used to sail the Douro River - the caravela, - the Portuguese ship of the 15th century - the galo de barcelos - the portuguese rooster - the daisy - we call it malmequer. Check these dangling earrings referred to as queen earrings. I gave a pair of the smallest to a friend and here she is. Aren't they lovely?



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