Filigree, derived from the latin word filum (meaning “thread”), is a form of art with a long history, which is known since 2.500 BC. Twisted and molded in order to resemble a thread, filigree exquisitely intertwines threads in silver, gold or other metals. The technique was originally used to decorate personal ornaments, including manuscript covers, armors, religious accessories and royal crowns.
This rich history can be found in several antique civilizations, from Egypt to Persia, extending through the Antiquity. The Renaissance, the Romantic Era and Art Nouveau. Distinguished filigree pieces are admired even today, exhibited in places such as the Museum of Vatican in Rome.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London.
Associated with an idea of elegance and sophistication, filigree decoration has remained constant until improvements were introduced in its production in the early 20th century. Including monochromatic visuals that combined metals such as platinum with transparent stones, such as diamonds. It was during this era of Art Nouveau that this art jewels became particularly popular.
In Portugal, it was by the influence of the Roman conquests that filigree arrived to what is currently the Portuguese territory.
From the 17th century on, Portuguese filigree starts to constitute it’s own imaginary. Differentiating itself from any other filigree – by representing themes such as Nature, Religion and Love: the sea (represented with fish, seashells, waves and boats), nature (with flowers, cloves and garlands), religious motives (such as reliquaries and crosses or, more recently, medals with saints, angels and religious figures), and love (the inspiration behind filigree hearts, although this appeared firstly as a symbol of dedication and cult to the Sacred Heart of Jesus).