The Filigree

The Art of Filigree over time

The origin of filigree dates back to the third millennium BC, in Mesopotamia. The oldest pieces date back to 2500 BC. and were discovered in the graves of Ur, in present-day Iraq. Other pieces, discovered in Syria, are from approximately 2100 BC.

It arrived in Europe via trade routes in the Mediterranean Sea, where it became relatively popular in Greek and Roman civilizations. The oldest discoveries of filigree jewelry were made in present-day Italy and are estimated to date back to the 17th century. 18th century BC It was also during the Roman Empire that the word “filigree” originated: the oldest discoveries were made in present-day Italy, dating back to the 17th century. XVIII B.C.

However, since the Middle East was a crossroads of cultures, filigree continued its journey and crossed borders to India and China. In the Far East, it was used mainly as a decorative element and not as jewellery. We find, for example, sculptures covered in filigree, teapots, plates or boxes.

Of course, the filigree of this remote time was not the same as what we know today: the patterns were different, as well as the use. But the similarity of the techniques used leaves no room for doubt - we were able to identify these secular pieces as examples of filigree.

So what sets filigree apart? Simple, the way different thin threads draw patterns and are welded together to create a much larger piece. No other art of jewelery uses a similar fusion technique to join gold threads. Today - as thousands of years ago - the different threads that make up each piece are joined only by heat, without recourse to any other material or alloy.

We can also say that there is no other goldsmithing technique in which so few metals are used to create such large and extraordinary shapes. In some filigree hearts, for example, half of the “surface” of the piece may be air!

Produção de filigrana

The Filigree in the Iberian Peninsula

The oldest pieces in filigree discovered in the Iberian Peninsula date back to 2000 - 2500 BC, but their origin is unclear. Possibly, these pieces belonged to traders or navigators from the Middle East and were not manufactured here.

Only during the rule of the Romans, during the 16th century. In the second century BC, mining operations began to exist on the Peninsula - out of curiosity, it was during this period that mining in the Pia and Banja mountains began, in Gondomar.

But only thousands of years later, in the 16th century. VIII AD, we were able to ensure with certainty that the filigree was being developed and produced in Portugal. It was with the arrival of Arab peoples that new patterns emerged and that, little by little, the filigree of the Peninsula began to differentiate itself from the filigree of other parts of the world.

While in neighboring Spain the filigree tradition was gradually lost, in Portugal it was refined. From the 19th century onwards XVII, Portuguese filigree already had its own imagery and shapes very different from any other filigree.

Produção de filigrana

The shapes and styles of Portuguese Filigree

The Portuguese filigree represents mostly nature, religion and love:

  • the sea is represented with fish, shells, waves and boats;
  • nature is the inspiration of flowers, shamrocks and wreaths;
  • with religious motifs, we find the crosses, such as the Maltese cross, and the reliquaries.More recently, medals with saints, angels and figures religious;
  • love, of course, is the inspiration of all hearts in filigree

Other iconic symbols of our filigree have a historical or not entirely clear origin. We are talking about: 

Coração de Viana

Contrary to what one might think, the primary purpose of Coração de Viana was not to be a symbol of love, but a symbol of dedication and worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was the Queen D. Maria I who, grateful for the “blessing” of having been granted a male child, had a heart in gold executed. .

Queen Earrings

It is almost unanimous that queen earrings appeared in Portugal during the reign of Queen Maria I (1734 - 1816). The origin of the name seems to date back to the reign of D. Maria II (1819 - 1853), who wore a pair of these earrings on a visit to Viana do Castelo in 1852. After this visit, they became popular as a symbol of wealth and status and earned the name “queen earrings”. In other areas of Minho, it is still known as “the queen's style”, “fidalga woman” or “rich woman”. But what is really curious are the designs of the queen earrings. It is said that they will be a symbol of female fertility, since there is a round part, with a smaller circle connected to the main piece in an apparently tenuous way: a symbol of the son's connection to the mother's womb, from which he will be freed. Supporters of this theory also mention that the lower part of the earring is an inverted triangle, a feminine symbol at the time.


The Arrecadas began to be the earrings of the humblest population and that the more privileged classes began to imitate. At its origin were the Castrejas earrings, inspired by the crescent moon.

Bead Necklaces

Beaded necklaces are as old as the art of goldsmithing. But the bead necklaces we refer to are the Viana beads descend from Greek beads: they are hollow inside, which makes them light and perfectly spherical. They are distinguished, however, by the filigree thread and by a small dot in the center. They arose because of the difficulty in buying an entire filigree necklace: the women would buy it bill by bill until they were able to make a whole necklace. There was also the advantage of changing the thread and making it the desired length.


Portuguese filigree today

Today, the manufacture of filigree in Portugal is mainly concentrated in the areas of Gondomar and Póvoa do Lanhoso. In Minho, filigree continues to be associated with a long tradition: the “Sunday costumes”. The Minho women's outfit is always complemented with several pieces of gold, including necklaces and earrings that pass from generation to generation.

Filigree exclusively manual

Unfortunately we were not able to guarantee the production of exclusively manual parts, there were no fillers in the whole country to meet the orders. But let's not deceive anyone, all parts that are exclusively manual will have a warning in their description.

We want the exclusively manual Filigree to survive and we will make our full contribution to its continuation.