Thursday, July 9, 2015


Maltese crosses made in filigree (click to enlarge)
Among the many crafts that Malta still produces is the art or craft of filigree. Last year I was able to see for myself some of this intricate work, and the photos shown here depict some of the items for sale. Filigree is a delicate kind of jewelery metalwork, usually of gold and silver, made with tiny beads or twisted threads, or both in combination, soldered together or to the surface of an object of the same metal and arranged in artistic motifs. It often suggests lace and remains popular in Indian and other Asian metalwork. It was popular as well in Italian and French metalwork from 1660 to the late 19th century. 
More filigree work from Malta
Though filigree has become a special branch of jewelery in modern times, it was historically part of the ordinary work of the jeweler. Indeed, all the jewelry of the Etruscans and Greeks was made by soldering together and much of the medieval jewel work all over Europe down to the 15th century, on reliquaries, crosses, croziers, and other ecclesiastical goldsmiths' work, is set off with bosses and borders of filigree. Filigree work in silver was practiced by the Moors of Spain during the Middle Ages with great skill, and was introduced by them and established all over the Iberian Peninsula, hence it was carried to the Spanish colonies in America. The Portuguese filigree work of the 17th and 18th centuries is of extraordinary complexity, and silver filigree jewelry of delicate and artistic design is still made in considerable quantities throughout the country.
Maltese boats made from filigree
The manufacture spread over the Balearic Islands, and among the populations that border the Mediterranean. It is still made all over Italy, and in Portugal, Malta, Macedonia, Albania, the Ionian Islands and many other parts of Greece. That of the Greeks is sometimes on a large scale, with several thicknesses of wires alternating with larger and smaller bosses and beads, sometimes set with turquoises, and mounted on convex plates, making rich ornamental headpieces, belts, and breast ornaments. Silver filigree broaches and buttons are also made in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

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