Jewelry Styles


Filigree is the jewelry art of creating unique patterns

Filigree is the jewelry art of creating unique patterns

Filigree is a jewelry technique for making elaborate openwork products from a very thin metal wire by connecting individual elements by soldering. The international term filigree in Russian has another synonym – “filigree”, both names are widely used in the lexicon of masters and art connoisseurs.

Filigree is a very complex and time-consuming technique, in which the artist spends several weeks or even months to create a unique jewelry masterpiece. Experienced craftsmen often complement products with inserts of precious stones, blackened silver, animal bones, pearls or pieces of wood.

Filigree is the jewelry art of creating unique patterns

Types and features of filigree

Filigree as an artistic method of metal processing is most often used in the manufacture of small jewelry. But with the help of this technique the craftsmen create other various products: figurines and sculptures; original dishes (bowls, cups, plates, cup holders); exquisite buttons; hats; belts; bracers; frames for icons and paintings; corners of bindings and covers of valuable books.

In jewelry, the following main types of filigree are distinguished:

  • soldered;
  • openwork;
  • volumetric.

In the manufacture of soldered products, the master carefully solders the filigree pattern elements to the sheet metal base. The artist makes openwork objects exclusively from wire, directly connecting the individual elements of the decoration. The volumetric technique of filigree is used to create complex spatial art compositions (figurines or sculptures).

Filigree bracelet
Filigree bracelet

The main materials for filigree are various metals and alloys:

  • gold;
  • silver;
  • platinum;
  • copper;
  • cupronickel;
  • brass;
  • nickel silver

Jewelers usually use in their work not smooth, but specially prepared filigree wire. It is made by tightly twisting two thin threads together and then flattening them with a hammer. When making jewelry, filigree is often combined with grain (small metal balls), and the surfaces are covered with special enamel.

The history of filigree

The history of filigree is about 5000 years old, and this jewelry technique was invented in Mesopotamia. This is evidenced by the numerous jewelry found during archaeological excavations created by ancient craftsmen. Later, the art of filigree spread to neighboring regions, it was mastered by the Phoenicians and Egyptians, Persians and Indians.

In the period from the 8th to the 4th centuries BC, the ancient technique was widespread in the lands of the Scythians. Local craftsmen have learned to create all kinds of jewelry and decor items in a unique animal style, including beautiful breast pectorals. The filigree technique was also familiar to the ancient Etruscans, Greeks and Romans, who adopted it from the Phoenician neighbors and carefully passed on the secrets of this craft from generation to generation.

Silver box of Russian filigree masters, XIX century
Silver box of Russian filigree masters, XIX century

In Northern Europe, the Celts, Britons and Saxons have achieved significant success in the field of artistic jewelry processing of metals. The earliest examples of filigree products found in the territory of modern England date back to the 7th century, including some artifacts from the largest Staffordshire hoard.

In the Middle Ages, filigree was widespread in the countries of southern Europe. Large centers for the production of jewelry existed in the territory of modern Spain, Portugal and Italy. Until the beginning of the Renaissance, the main customers of European filigree masters were the Catholic Church. The unique cult objects created in those times, such as reliquaries, crosses and bowls for worship, still arouse admiration.

Since the 16th century, the filigree technique has been perfectly mastered by masters in almost all countries of Western and Central Europe. From that time to the present day, the ancient method of artistic metal processing remains one of the most demanded in jewelry.

In Russia, the art of filigree began to develop rapidly at the beginning of the 18th century, after the secrets of this craft were brought by Swedish masters who came to permanent settlement. Over the next two centuries, unique filigree centers appeared in different parts of the Russian Empire. Including the most famous of them, located in the village of Krasnoe-on-Volga, Kostroma region.

Filigree remains a popular jewelry technique today. Unique examples of antiques, created by ancient masters, arouse great interest at art auctions among the most sophisticated public.