Folk Ark Process


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

L. A. Cano

The next welcome addition to the Folk Ark Directory is Colombian jeweller L. A. Cano, whose high quality reproductions of pre-Hispanic designs have been painstakingly researched over generations of the Cano family's fascination with the region's indigenous peoples and the artefacts they left behind.

Working L. A. Cano's designs in 24k gold-plated brass, 18k gold and .925 sterling silver are a team of skilled craftsmen utilising the same smithing methods as were employed in pre-Columbian times, including lost wax casting, hammering, bas-relief and high-relief. The resulting range pays homage not only to the aesthetic flair of indigenous Colombian cultures but to the ingenuity and skill of their craftsmen, and their belief in the supernatural properties of the materials with which they worked. This page of their website briefly describes some of the pre-Columbian cultures on whose original artefacts their pieces are based. 

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.


Fierce Friday: Marc Garanger's Femmes Algeriennes 1960

In 1960, at the end of the Algerian War, photographer Marc Garanger was posted with the French Army in the small Kabylian settlement of Ain Terzine, one of the 'regroupment villages' into which mountain dwellers had been forced to keep members of the resistance from communicating. It was soon decided that these resettled people should carry mandatory identity cards as is the case in France; Garanger was tasked with photographing each of the 2,000 Berber and Muslim villagers over a period of ten days. The resulting portraits of the women in particular have formed a powerful record of that conflict. 

The villagers had never come into contact with Europeans or, presumably, cameras. The women were forced to remove their veils for the photographs, exposing their hair and protective tattoos, and to sit on a stool in front of a whitewashed wall while a strange man standing only three feet away pointed a strange instrument at their faces. The looks they gave it are their own extraordinary account of their feelings and experiences.

Algeria gained independence on 5 July 1962.

Facial tattooing such as that visible in the images is an ancient practice among Berber people, which has waned with the influence of Islam but is now more commonly replicated using temporary means such as henna. The tattoos, each of which has a specific meaning, offer protection from the Evil Eye and from spirits who might possess the wearer, being placed at points on the body where they might otherwise enter. 

Jewelry is traditionally a central element of Berber women's cultural identity and the large and numerous pieces worn feature a mixture of precious stones such as turquoise, amber and coral, glass beads, silver, coins and enamel. A noted contemporary Berber jeweller is Karim Oukid Ouksel, whose highly intricate filigree and enamel pieces reflect the motifs of typical Kabylian textiles and objects, as well as evoking their originating culture.

Shiprock rocks

In putting together yesterday's Round-Up I had an exploratory rummage through Shiprock Santa Fe's selection of contemporary bangles and cuffs and was blown away by the stunning and unique pieces in their collection. So much so that for fear of dominating the whole egalitarian round-up concept, I'm just giving them their own post! Here are more than a few I can't stop looking at. 

(Click the images to access their respective pages on Shiprock's website and again, if viewing on a mobile, turn it sideways to see captions.)

Silversmithing is relatively new to Native American material culture, and items in Shiprock's collections of Native American jewellery range from late 19th century to contemporary pieces, hand-drawn and forged to machine processed. Each is selected and evaluated by Jed Foutz, the man behind Shiprock and himself raised on the Navajo Nation in a family of art traders.

All images from Shiprock Santa Fe's website.



Recent virtual travels through artisan craft brands have unearthed a wealth of gorgeous jewellery, but with summer stealing over the northern hemisphere and forearms being bared from California to Kyoto I have bangles on the brain. In Folk Ark's first round-up, here are some particular favourites; click through to buy or for more info. If you are viewing on a mobile turn it sideways for captions!


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.