Silver Filigree

What is silver FILIGREE?

Filigree is an ancient traditional form of art and jewellery technique for which the city of Aleppo in Syria is known for. This art is achieved with small and detailed beads and twisted threads of silver fused together creating a silver masterpiece. It is known for its delicateness and intricate workmanship. Its fragility is often assimilated to the texture of lace. The filigree technique is linked to fine craftsmanship and luxury design and is the result of the artist’s precision and dedication.

History of FILIGREE

The earliest references of filigree go back to 3000 B.C in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Historical records suggest that the art spread to parts of Asia in 2500 BC, and from Asia to Europe.

It must be stated that Silver Filigree is not specific to the Middle Eastern heritage but is part of it. This centuries-old art of crafting silver jewellery made its way to most of the ancient civilizations that each has blended and developed it in its own manner using the available local tools and techniques.

Its name, “filigree”, derives from the Latin union of the word “filum”, which means “thread”, with “granum”, which means small bead. Filigrana is the Italian name for this art, while filigrane is the French one. In Arabic it is called “kasr al-jefet” (كسر الجفت) meaning the breaking of the “jefet” (local name of the main tool used to curve and interweave the thin silver threads). The Armenians in Aleppo are the people leading this profession in Syria.

Filigree was very common in Italy, France and Portugal, from 1660 to the late 19th century. It was used by nobles and aristocrats as a medium to display their wealth and status in the society. During that time, filigree became very popular in the French court, making its way to the French fashion.


How is silver FILIGREE produced?

Design, skill and precision play a vital role in the making of every silver filigree ornament. The process is laborious, demanding and time-consuming.

First, the thin silver threads are obtained by melting pure silver, pouring it into specific moulds and then pulling the thin threads through the cylindrical flattening tool. The diameter of one silver thread can be equivalent to the diameter of one human hair!  

Then the outer pattern of the ornaments is traced on paper. This helps the artisans access the size and definitive form of the ornament. Next, the extremely fine silver wires are twisted, looped, cut, coiled, weaved and curled with hands or using the “jefet” to follow the design on the paper. Bit by bit, one piece at a time, thin silver wires are put together to create the desired design. All the separate pieces of silver wire are then carefully welded together. Uniformity, evenness, and neatness are highly important and hence the artisans must carefully avoid any mistakes that could break the patterns. At the end the piece is polished to achieve the perfect brilliant finish.

How is Silver FILIGREE used?

Silver filigree is a versatile art form, therefore flora, fauna, geometric patterns, impressions of nature, and inspirations from all sorts of forms can be given shape using this technique. Craftsmen can make women's jewellery, watches, dishes, cutlery, candlesticks, hospitality boxes, frames, table accessories and ornaments. The possibilities of filigree are as wide as imaginations and inspirations can be.