The Uniqueness of Filigree Jewelry from Portugal

Do You Filigree?

Filigree – the origin of the word is filigreen, which derives from the latin word filum (thread) and granum (grain) referring to the small beads.

There are archaeological finds from around the world showing that filigree jewelry was beloved in Mesopotamia as early as 3,000 B.C., later by Egyptians and Phoenicians, by the Greeks and Etruscans, who perfected this unique art between the 6th and the 3rd centuries B.C., and the Moors during the Middle Ages.

The oldest filigree pieces found in the Iberian Peninsula date back to 2000 – 2500 B.C., possibly brought over by merchants from the Middle East.  

In Portugal, filigree jewelry began to be produced in the 8th century with the arrival of the Arab migrants.

Portuguese filigree of the 17th and 18th century had already developed its own distinctive style. The pieces became famous for their beauty and extraordinary complexity.

Some of the most iconic filigree pieces are:

Heart of Viana – Today it’s a symbol of the city of Viana do Castelo. It began as a symbol of the cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the end of the 18th century. Queen D. Maria I (1734-1816) had one made, in gold, in gratitude for the birth of her son.


Queen Earrings – Queen D. Maria II (1819-1853) wore them on a visit to the city of Viana do Castelo. They became a symbol of wealth and status and are still traditionally used by brides, in the northern region of Portugal.  

Arrecadas – These earrings, with a smaller, simpler design, were worn by most of the population.

Viana Bead Necklace  – Influenced by the Greek beads: they are hollow and therefore light, with a thread of filigree and a small dot in the center. Beads can be bought individually to make a necklace.

Silver and gold filigree jewelry of delicate and artistic design is still made throughout Portugal today. This long lasting tradition is mostly preserved by artisans and small manufacturing workshops, passed down from generation to generation, mostly concentrated in northern Portugal. Portuguese gold used to make filigree is 19.2 kt (80% gold), higher quality than most of the gold sold in the rest of Europe which is 18 kt (75% gold and 25% other metals).

All of this makes filigree jewelry special and rich in history! It’s why it has transcended many generations!

SEE RELATED POSTS: What is Portuguese Traditional Jewelry?


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