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What Is Filigree Jewelry?

What Is Filigree Jewelry?

If you love vintage, antique-looking aesthetics, filigree jewelry may be perfect for you. The popularity of vintage engagement rings and other jewelry continues to rise, and with it, the popularity of filigree.

What is Filigree Work?

Filigree is a design element that requires very delicate, intricate metalwork. Many consider it an art form passed down through history for millennia. Filigree has been used on everything from fine jewelry, to armor, royal crowns, and religious regalia, to cast iron balustrades and railings. Filigree metal lacing has even been used to decorate the covers of manuscripts!

Filigree work is created by carefully twisting, untwisting, curling, and/or plating together thin threads of pliable precious metals, such as gold and silver. Sometimes tiny beads are used too. The end result looks a lot like lacy flourishes, which is why it’s so prized by people who adore the beauty of antique designs and vintage styles.

Filigree necklaces

History of Filigree

The history of filigree spans centuries. Some sources say the art of filigree dates back to 2500 B.C.E. There are even archaeological finds that indicate filigree work might date back as far as ancient Mesopotamian times, which means roughly as far back as 3000 B.C.

Whatever the time frame, filigree work has been found in many different ancient civilizations, such as Ancient Persia, Ancient Egypt, and on through history during the Greek era, the early Renaissance era, the Romance era, and the Art Nouveau era.

The word filigree actually stems from the Latin words filum, which means thread, and granum, meaning seed. It is said that during the Greek era, in the late 4th century, other elements were introduced to filigree work, like precious stones. During this time, gemstones like sapphires, pearls, and garnets were favored the most.

However, it’s said that the art of filigree jewelry really exploded in popularity during the reign of King Edward VII during the Art Nouveau era. King Edward was considered to be quite a fashion-forward fellow. He is credited as the one who came up with the idea of combining precious metals like platinum with precious gemstones like white diamonds, to create a monochromatic look that is still extremely popular today.

Today, to find hand-crafted filigree jewelry means you have to find a jeweler that has specialized skills. Once upon a time, these skills were commonplace, and filigree work was really the norm more than the exception.

These days, filigree is considered a special branch of artisan jewelry that is often created using modern technology. This modern technology allows jewelers to mass-produce filigree jewelry quickly and efficiently.

If you are a history buff and you love to travel, there are many beautifully designed filigree artifacts stored all over the world today. Places such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Louvre in Paris, the Vatican Museum in Venice, and the British Museum in London would be great to visit.

Marquise cut filigree earrings

What is a Filigree Ring?

Filigree rings are often created using something called openwork designs. Some rings use a prong set or bezel set, with gemstones as embellishments. Eventually, during the Art Deco jewelry era, filigree wedding and engagement rings emerged that used sapphires and pave diamonds as embellishments. If you’re asking, what are pave diamonds, they are a ring setting that make up a beautifully embellished ring.

Some wedding rings were created using abstract or geometric patterns and designs, and as time wore on, other shapes started to be incorporated, like flowers, hearts, and even stars. Vines also became quite popular, as did stamping and engraving. These design trends are still seen in filigree rings even today.

How are Filigree Rings Made?

Filigree rings are made by creating intricate designs using fine threads of silver or gold wiring. Some jewelers also use bronze or platinum for filigree work. You’ll find that the basic structure when creating filigree rings comes in four types.

The first type is called openwork. This type of filigree design uses heavier wire that is soldered together at its touchpoints and has no backing.

There is also ground-supported filigree, the second type. This type solders all wire points to a supporting surface.

Sometimes openwork and ground-supported filigree work are combined to create a third type. Combining these two means that openwork wires are attached to a supporting surface. Note that there are also other types of attachments besides soldering, including rivets, split rivets, claws, or bezels.

The fourth type might be one of the above types but it uses added material as filling between the wires, such as enamel.

All of these types of filigree work can be applied to creating jewelry, including wedding and engagement rings.

Benefits of a Filigree Ring

Filigree work is intricate and beautiful, all on its own. However, when you combine it with precious gemstones, it really ups the wow factor. Rings that have a smaller center stone that is surrounded by filigree work can really stand out because of the exquisite design. It makes the stone pop in a way it wouldn’t on another style of ring.

When you combine jewels with filigree, it gives wedding and engagement rings a charmingly romantic vibe that is both vintage and chic. If you’re the type who really loves ornamental rings, look for designs that incorporate filigree detailing the sides of the ring and that have filigree added to the gallery of the ring. It will make for one of the best men’s wedding bands if it has an elegant design.

One of the nicest things about filigree work is that you can get a ring that’s eye-catching and embellished, even if it doesn’t have gemstones. Even better, sometimes, the filigree rings that don’t have gemstones are more affordable than those with gems. This works great for those who are budget-minded but still want a wedding or engagement ring that stands out.

The truth is that filigree rings simply never go out of style. If you happen to find one that’s been hand-crafted or request that one be custom-made, you can rest assured it’s literally one-of-a-kind. Filigree rings are remarkably beautiful works of art that always have been and always will be adored by women everywhere. Who wouldn’t love rings with such exquisite detailing?

Close-up earring filigree metalwork

Which Metals are Best for Filigree Rings?

When deciding on a metal for a filigree ring, durability is a big factor! The delicacy and intricacy of filigree designs mean you want to ensure that whatever metal you choose will hold up to the test of time.

Platinum can be a good choice because it’s harder and more durable than gold, but it can get pricey with filigree work. It’s also best to avoid 24k gold, whether it’s rose, white, or yellow. This is because the purity of 24k gold means it’s too soft to be an economical choice. However, 14k or 10k gold would work fine as both are mixed with other metals, making them more durable.

Sterling silver is also a popular choice for filigree work and holds up well. However, not all couples like the idea of using sterling silver for their wedding ring or engagement ring.

You can choose from a variety of settings, but some of the more common ones that use filigree work include:

  • Pear-shaped settings
  • Oval shaped settings
  • Marquise shaped settings
  • Heart-shaped settings
  • Round shaped settings
  • Emerald and square-shaped settings
  • Trillion shaped settings
  • Knotted settings

Before Buying Your Filigree Ring

There are some things to remember before you start shopping for a filigree ring. Remember that filigree work is extremely delicate and may be more prone to damage than other styles of wedding rings.

The lacy design with it’s tiny, and looped wires mean that it can be easily caught on something when you’re wearing it. That can result in both a bent ring or even a broken ring, especially if you use softer metals instead of one that’s more durable.

You should also be sure to carefully inspect your ring before buying it. Assess whether the design-build is sturdy, the filigree design itself is symmetrical, and that the pattern is precise.

Remember that many jewelry stores feature filigree rings that have been mass-produced using machines. If you want a ring that’s 100% unique, the only one of its kind, you’ll want to look for either a vintage antique ring or request a custom design from your chosen jeweler. Note that custom, hand-crafted filigree rings will almost always cost you more than a ring that is mass-produced, simply because of the level of skilled labor that’s involved. Rings with hand-crafted filigree designs aren’t just pieces of artisan jewelry; they are truly works of art. At Diamond Nexus, we believe that all great art takes time and care.

*Here at Diamond Nexus, we strive to provide valuable information while being clear and honest about our products. The Nexus Diamond™ alternative is a patented lab created diamond simulate that, among all simulants, most closely imitates the look, weight and wear of a diamond, with two exceptions – it is absolutely perfect in every way, and it costs significantly less. Price points and environmental facts expressed in this blog were taken from popular online retailers and may vary. Learn more about the environmental impact of mining by visiting our blog.

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