What is filigree jewelry?

18K white gold filigree charm from Florence ItalyFlorence and the surrounding area is particularly well known in Italy for its long tradition in working gold into beautiful pieces of art.  In fact,  this art was advanced to its highest perfection by the Greeks and Etruscans from the 6th to the 3rd centuries BC.  As a testament to this tradition , a number of earrings and other personal ornaments found in central Italy are well preserved in the Louvre and in the British Museum.  Almost all of them are made of filigree work.

The filifree or as many cultures know it “filograno” is used in the production of gold and silver pieces.  This particular technique consists of reducing the precious metal into fine wires to create a type of jewelry characterized by braiding and bending these  threads to create delicate swirling, curving motifs.  The patience and skill required to work these extremely thin threads is what contributes to the value of these unique designs.

18K yellow gold filigree charm from Florence ItalyFiligree (also less commonly spelt filagree, and formerly written filigrann or filigrene) often suggests lace, and in recent centuries remains popular in Indian and other Asian metalwork, and French from 1660 to the late 19th century. It should not be confused with ajoure jewellery work; while both have many open areas, filigree involves threads being soldered together to form an object and ajoure involves holes being punched, drilled, or cut through an existing piece of metal.

It is interesting to note the origins of this technique was historically considered part of the ordinary work of a jeweler, even though filigree has become a special branch of jewellery in modern times.  A. Castellani states, in his “Memoir on the Jewellery of the Ancients” (1861), that except for items intended to follow the owners to the grave, the jewelry of the Etruscans (from central Italy) and Greeks was made by soldering together  gold rather than by chiseling or engraving the material.  Below is a gorgeous example of how the Etruscans solder together and decorated with fine gold threads.  Click on photo for more details on where you can see this set of ear rings.

etruscan gold in filograno or filigree

Etruscan, Pair of bauletto earrings, 6th century B.C., gold, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Clark

18k pink gold teardrop shaped filigree pendant from Florence Italy

18K yellow gold filigree circle charm with genuine diamond

These pieces are more are on sale at Pierotucci.com where you will find an interesting and ever changing collection of handmade Italian crafted 18K gold rings, bracelets, pendants, necklaces and more.


About Pierotucci

Since 1972 Pierotucci has been designing and producing classic Italian Leather goods for men & women, including leather bags, leather handbags and purses, leather jackets and leather accessories such as wallets, gloves, belts and much more.
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4 Responses to What is filigree jewelry?

  1. JMGrana says:

    Great post. I couldn’t care less about jewelry most of the time, but I’m glad that you’ve added a new word to my vocabulary!

    • Pierotucci says:

      I find language and the origin of words are a fascinating piece of history. Since I have learned Italian . . . hmmm . . . and I am always amazed at how many words are similar – but as my Dad would say – close but no cigar.

  2. There are men’s bracelets with the Greek Key design,
    other etched and complexly cut designs such as skulls, scorpions, even the Christian cross to name a few.
    Some are gently curved and others are curved into the shape of a U.
    People have risked their lives to journey to our country.

  3. Allegra says:

    Does filigree tell in any way the quality of the gold used? 14 kt, 10 kt, vermeil, etc.?

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