Filigree

Folk Ark Process

KOKKU: SARDINIAN FILIGREE

Filigree is one of the oldest and most widespread jewelling techniques; in Sardinia, it has been practiced for thousands of years, kept a closely guarded secret from one generation to the next, and while it used to be a skill common to all jewellers, it has now become specialised, rendering family workshop KOKKU's use of traditional hand methods doubly rare. The company works with master craftsmen, employing traditional Sardinian styles and motifs as as both a foundation and a feature of their modern pieces.

The word 'filigree' is derived from the Latin word filum, meaning thread, for this is what forms the basis of the technique: extremely fine wire is twisted into a coiled thread which can then be shaped into various elements and soldered together to create a finished piece. The ring being made here is KOKKU's Fedele Quattro, symbolising love, commitment and fidelity.

Visit KOKKU's profile page for more information on their history and their stunning jewelry. This post is also available as a Steller story.

New Listing

Yemenite Art

I'm very happy to welcome jeweller Ben-Zion David's Yemenite Art to the Folk Ark Directory! Ben-Zion's family has been perpetuating the ancient techniques of handmade silver filigree jewelry and Judaica in the Yemenite Jewish style for eight generations, and Ben-Zion himself still uses these same techniques, and tools bearing their Yemenite names, in his workshop in Old Jaffa near Tel Aviv in Israel. The video below gives a fascinating insight into the process that takes one of Ben-Zion's pieces from silver wires to jaw-dropping bracelet.

His pieces range from delicate, intricate pendants to large pieces for traditional ceremonial use, incorporating semi-precious stones, coral and even lava, as well as traditional symbols and motifs such as the pomegranate. The standard of Ben-Zion's work is internationally recognised and for the past six years he has exhibited at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. See more of Ben-Zion's work and links to his online shop on Yemenite Art's profile page.

FUTURE FILIGRANA

The delicate technique of filigree is ancient and examples are found in many cultures. The word itself describes the process, being derived from the Latin filum (thread) and granum (grain), extremely fine pieces of which are worked from metal, usually gold or silver, and soldered together to create exquisite jewels resembling lace.

Though filigree used to be an essential component of the jeweller's repertoire, it has in modern times become a speciality, and an endangered one at that. Fortunately, some dedicated jewellery houses are working to restore the popularity of filigree, highlighting its long history and now specialised nature as one of its desirable characteristics.

Two such houses are Kokku, whose founder hails from Sardinia and with his wife, intends to preserve that culture's rich artisanal filigree work; and Luis Mendez, who with his brothers Raúl and Jerónimo were trained by their father, also called Luis, and are carrying on a business begun by their grandfather in the Spanish filigree tradition.

A 'kokku' is a Sardinian amulet: a stone, usually obsidian, set in a silver ring and believed to ward off evil. The brand (above) was begun by Ansula and Andrea Usai, born of Andrea's pride in his Sardinian heritage and Ansula's love of the gorgeous traditional filigree jewellery given to her by Andrea. Their concern for the future of a tradition so old and intrinsic to Sardinian culture prompted them to 'preserve by promoting'. Kokku works exclusively with Sardinian master filigree craftsmen in an effort to offer a maximum both of support to the art form and of authenticity to its customers. Kokku also minimises its impact on the environment by using mostly recycled gold in its pieces. You can read more about the history and cultural role of Sardinian filigree and purchase items on their website.

In the case of Luis Mendez Artesanos, above, Luis and his brothers are the craftsmen and their livelihoods come entirely from the fruits of their workshop in the western Spanish province of Salamanca, where they have also established a gallery promoting the craft. Filigree was practised by the Moors of Spain and further varied and established there by Greek and Phoenician artisans in the 16th century, and the Mendez brothers still take a great deal of inspiration from the jewellery of this period. They work in both gold and silver and incorporate pearls and gems into many pieces. You can view their catalogue here and purchase Luis Mendez Artesanos through IFAM Online and Etsy.

Images taken from the Kokku, Luis Mendez Artesanos and IFAM Online websites.