What is Filigree ?

The namesake of our shop, filigree, refers to the intricate wire work often done in gold or silver that consists of metal beads and threads woven together to create beautiful pieces with a unique and familiar look. The name filigree comes from the latin words “filum” meaning thread and “granum” meaning grain. The style has existed for thousands of years and has spread and flourished in cultures all across the globe.

Today filigree is made by master jewelers but thousands of years ago it was a far more common skill that was practiced by many.

Filigree work is probably most known in jewelry, although the fabrication of iron railings and household items like plates and lamps are also common places for it to be found. Stretching all the way back to ancient Greece and Mesopotamia the style spread to Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Today, areas like Eastern India are home to a style of filigree called Tarakasi and Mompox, Columbia is known for a style of silver filigree called Mompox Filigrana. China is also a hotbed of gold filigree where filigree inlay art is one of the Eight Traditional Arts and Crafts of Beijing.

The universal appreciation of the skill required to craft these intricate and elaborate works by hand has helped this style of metal work spread to cultures all around the world. This is something we love here at Filigree Jewelers, and we enjoy teaching and sharing this magnificent style with everyone we can.

Filigree Wirework

The most telling aspect of filigree is the delicate wire work. Master jewelers weave and twist threads of precious metal wires to form incredible textures and details.

Pictured above are two brilliant examples of filigree wire work done in pins and pendants. The wires in the butterfly wings are even beaded to sparkle even brighter.

Below are two darling filigree rings from the Art Deco period. Milgrained wires were often used to create beautiful mountings for precious gemstones like the ring on the right. This style of engagement ring created an ornate look where the mountings were as stunning as the diamonds they held.

Filigree technology: laser cutting

Laser cutting technologies were developed in the 1960’s and have been used in jewelry making since 1965 when Western Electric began using lasers to drill holes into diamond dies. Today laser cutting continues to be used in many aspects of jewelry making. The ability to precisely cut metal at incredibly small tolerances has made it easier for the filigree look to be mass produced.

Vintage Edwardian Brooch w/ Old European Cut Diamonds

Some of the most noticeable filigree work you will find in our inventory is on the many pins, brooches, and pendants we have from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. This fine brooch has a fabulous variety of filigree work with parallel wires running between the curved flowery borders.

Vintage French Edwardian Watch w/ Diamonds in Platinum

The filigree work on the bracelet of this incredible Edwardian watch makes a lovely setting for the many diamonds. The marquise shaped scrolling filigree work in the open space next to the dial is a fabulous example of European filigree work from the early 20th century.

Art Deco Filigree Necklace w/ Old European Diamond

This Art Deco filigree necklace is the epitome of the type of beautiful lattice of milgrain wires done in 14 karat white gold. The rectangular frame continues the filigree work even from the side view. This is one of the best example of stunning Art Deco filigree work we have, but there are still many other fine examples in our large inventory of unique vintage pieces.

Pictured below are some more fine examples of the many different examples of filigree works we have in our inventory. Be sure to view our antique and vintage engagement rings for many more examples of stunning rings like these!

Learn more about Filigree Inlay Art from China!

Filigree Engagement Rings

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