Filigree is an ancient technique, known at least since antique times. It acquired great expression in the traditional Portuguese art of jewelry making, and an attentive eye can identify this technique in the most luxurious items, such as sixteen century gold and silver reliquaries, and in the dowry of the most humble countrywomen.
What distinguishes the Portuguese filigree is its popular use. From the middle XVIII century to the first decades of the XX century, the Portuguese living in Brazil sent regular shipments of gold to their families still in Portugal. In a scenery where property and resources are far too few for the very numerous families, girls looking to wed where encouraged to give their dowry and appearance a lot of attention.
A true tradition is born in the Minho, on the north of the county.
The Mordomas parade is accompanied every year by thousands of people who wait hours to enjoy the typical gold that the Mordomas carry to the breast.
Minho’s jewelry making art is resourceful and original. Made mostly from gold, these jewels were a true social and economic statement, and the only riches that never went out of fashion or value. Each piece has a typology and specific symbolism, and there are strict rules on how to wear and when to buy each piece, in order to celebrate each stage of a women’s life.
These rules apply mainly to the earrings, necklaces, pendants and brooches.
In the Minho, jewelry are either hollow, produced from one or two sheets of gold hammered into a bulbous shape, or entirely in filigree. To produce this kind of item, the goldsmith has to create a very thin gold wire that he twirls and twines in delicate baroque shapes that can produce very complex motives. Filigree can be applied over existent jewels or make a whole new surprising piece. It also can be enhanced with little gold spheres, pearls, enamel and semi-precious stones, such as turquoises, coral and jet.
The most iconic is the Heart of Viana do Castelo. But lets leave that to another time.
To see more, go to the Gold Museum in Travassos (Museu do Ouro), of the Jewelry Museum in Viana do Castelo (Museu da Ourivesaria), or enjoy this video we found for you featuring the creation of a reliquary in the Worshop Manuel Armando Rodrigues Fernandes e Filhos, Lda, em Sobradelo da Goma, Póvoa do Lanhoso.