Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Filigree - I love it.

It’s another day of being sidetracked. I inherited this lovely old brooch, the poor thing relegated to the box  for the last three decades, and only taken out to be admired now and again.  I love looking at old jewellery, when in the mood, and I enjoy wearing nice jewellery but I’ve never been a covetous sort who must have expensive items. I’ve always preferred silver to gold, and less rather than more in ostentatious style, so it's quite interesting for me in that the butterfly brooch is more fussy than I would normally gravitate to. 

I inherited this silver filigree brooch in 1980, as part of my mother-in-laws bits and pieces. Across the widest wing span it measures 8 cms/ 3 and 1/8th inches, so it's not a tiny brooch to add to a piece of clothing. I remember wearing it a few times back then, but was always a bit cautious because on one instance it became detached from my jacket, caught on a serape I was wearing over the top. Realising the pin was not too ‘sound’ the brooch remained mainly in its box. I think the missing antennae had broken off well before my incident, but I can't now remember. It is therefore not 'whole' - imperfect  - but still very pretty. 

I've never taken the time to search out its history so I’m attempting to do that now. It may have come from my mother-in- law’s own mother who was born 1892, or it perhaps had belonged to my husband’s paternal grandmother who was born in 1881.

The filigree style is redolent of the Art Nouveau period which lasted approximately from 1890 through to around 1910. I can find no hallmark of any kind on it, so it may not be as old as that, but it is very similar in design to items on the open market which claim to be Art Nouveau silver filigree butterfly pin brooches.

Filigree – what is that?

Filigree describes very delicate ornamental work in jewellery and other furnishings – ancient examples of this hand made.

Filigree itself comes from the Latin word ‘filum’ for thread and from ‘granum’ meaning a small bead or grain.  In filigree jewellery, the metal strands (silver or gold wire) are very fine, tiny thin threads interwoven. Filigree art work has been made since ancient times and there are many fine examples through the ages to be viewed in museums worldwide. 


 This dish on Wikimedia commons would match my brooch rather well!  

In Art Nouveau filigree jewellery designs nature is the principle focus. The ‘lace’ effect of filigree work is perfect for butterfly wings, the twisting and curling delicate and beautiful. 

Whether or not my brooch is hand made or was somehow mass produced is an interesting question but the answer wouldn’t make me appreciate its delicateness any less. If you have any knowledge of old filigree jewellery work I'd love to hear from you.

ps -I'm not sure if you noticed it but the box it has been stored in all these years is also quite pretty! 

Enjoy my brooch.

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