About Filigree

It is an art form that pre-dates Moses and the Ark of the Covenant by more than six centuries, a marriage of metal and empty space twisted and wrought into a lacy adornment that is both elegant in its own right and an enhancement to the grace of those who wear it.

Handcrafted filigree jewelry has no known birthplace, no traceable provenance, no set of ironclad guidelines by which the craft is governed. Rather, its origins have been traced to Egypt, Norway, the Holy Land and the Indian subcontinent with each point of genesis adding its own unmistakable personality and identity.

Across centuries and continents, it has not been uncommon to see golden filigree gracing the throat of a Bengali maharani or airy swirls of silver bedecking the wrist of a czarina. Indeed, it is generally acknowledged that the zenith of artisan filigree jewelry occurred during the latter years of Nineteenth Century Russia, when the craftsmen of the legendary Faberge atelier were spinning silver and golden thread into gossamer masterworks for the royal court.

With the dawning of the Industrial Revolution, machinery made filigree style jewelry replicable, affordable and accessible to a broader population, and the number of artisans both capable and willing to undertake the painstaking attention to meticulous detailing necessary to curl and connect silver or gold into miracles grew smaller by the decade.

In recent years, however, a small number of American craftsmen have started a grassroots movement to revive the dying art of hand-wrought filigree jewelry. Because of the precision and grace needed to produce truly superlative work, the adherents to the demands of the craft remain few in number.

Among them is artisan Lil McKinnon Hicks.


©2012, Lil McKinnon-Hicks.

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