Isn’t it something related to horses? Actually, no. That’s pedigree. Filigree, as it pertains to the diamond industry, is found in the setting, not the stone, and it is an ancient art form found in many unique cultures that has managed to stand the test of time and remains prevalent today. And it starts with filaments. If you have ever dealt with electrical components (speaker cable, lighting, etc.), then you probably know that filament is a word used to describe metal wiring, and it is very similar to that used in jewelry-making.
Jewelers begin the process of creating filigree by hammering bits of metal into fine wire threads. They then twist and manipulate these filaments into a variety of artistic patterns, holding them together with delicate and precise soldering techniques. The hallmark of the style is that it is composed of open patterns, often resembling lace. This serves to create not only extremely ornate and complex pieces, but also to show the skill and artistry of the craftsperson. And the use of negative space (i.e. the holes between metal pieces) is a tool that has long been employed by artists to add particular emphasis to their designs.
Although the use of filigree in jewelry has been around for centuries, possibly dating as far back as the 6th century BC, it reached the height of its popularity around the turn of the 20th century. People of the Victorian era were particularly fond of decorative craftwork, as can be seen not only in their choice of jewelry, but in all of their adornments (from clothing to dishware to architecture). It was from this love of ornamentation that the art nouveau style of the 1930s evolved, with the filigree style making forays into other forms of design, art, and architecture.
And the craft of filigree is still practiced to this day, especially in the arena of jewelry settings. It remains one of the most beautiful methods of accentuating a diamond not only because the open design allows more light to hit the stone, but also because the dainty nature of the filaments adds to the diamond rather than overpowering it as some molded pieces might. Those who desire accessories with this type of embellishment can certainly find what they’re looking for in an antique, but there are so many fine jewelers creating filigree now that it’s not too difficult to find a lovely piece of jewelry that embodies this long-lived style.