Delicate golden threads, as fine as a strand of hair, are ably intertwined by the hands of those who master this art like no other. One would hardly guess that the origin of this golden thread dates back to solid gold bars. This could only be the work of true masters, genuine filigree masters!
Portugal has a longstanding tradition in the art of goldsmithing. In the past, the North of Portugal was abundant in gold and skilled talent to work it. It was in the hills of Pias and Banja the Roman people discovered gold mines, and thus, thanks to trade routes, filigree began to make a sensation. The exact origin of this technique is not known, but what is known is that various samples have been found all over the world. In Portugal, history has also unveiled pieces dating back to ancient times, between 2500 to 2000 B.C.
In the resilient workshops, where Portuguese filigree is still intricately crafted, there’s pride, or as the residents from Minho say, a “Chieira“, in doing everything by hand and with a lot of patience. Machines may try to compete in filigree production, but this art maintains a strong connection to manual skill.
The 25 steps to create a Viana Heart (Coração de Viana) reveal themselves to be slow and meticulous, resulting in the production of only one piece per day. Threads intertwined with pride, initially resembling golden hair, are skillfully woven to shape the symbol of the city of Viana do Castelo. It was Queen D. Maria I who ordered the execution of the first one at the end of the 18th century when her firstborn son. This symbol carries a profound religious connotation, representing the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where, at the top, we can glimpse the burning flames of the earth and the warmth of love.
The tradition of wearing this symbol on the chest had its origin in Viana do Castelo. However, the filigree is meticulously crafted in neighbouring lands, notably in Póvoa do Lanhoso and Gondomar.
During the Pilgrimage of Agonia, the “Mordomas” and “Brides of Viana do Castelo” parade their pieces of golden filigree, attempting to catch the eye of young men. Impressive Viana heart-shaped pendants, or small ones resembling “relicários”, queen’s earrings, or the traditional spindle earrings, long beaded necklaces, and shorter ones—anything goes to showcase the richness of Portuguese filigree!
Today, this art takes on various forms, from delicate pieces adorned with religious motifs to creations with a polished and contemporary design. Filigree, over time, transcends its festive origins, evolving into an artistic expression that blends tradition and modernity.
Filigree has gained a new lease of life in the jewellery designers’ hands, who reimagine its essence and free it from the religious concept. The brand Portugal Jewels has also embarked on the path of contemporaneity, not forgetting the roots of tradition but rather investing in a harmonious fusion of both concepts.
These brands have recognized the Portuguese tradition potential and have been contributing to showcasing this corner of Europe to other countries. Thus, filigree, once tied to religious meanings, now flourishes as a modern artistic expression, showcasing to the world the beauty and skill of Portuguese filigree masters. The history of filigree continues to unfold, oscillating between tradition and innovation, like a narrative that transcends borders and captivates admirers worldwide.
In the month dedicated to love, the tradition continues to shine as it did in the days of yore. Giving a piece of filigree is not just gifting a jewel; it’s sharing love and preserving a part of Portugal’s history. Discover meaningful Valentine’s Day gifts at Mar d’Estórias Home!