Filigree is a lacy metal ornamentation, a delicate decorative openwork made from thin twisted wire in silver, gold or other metals.
The word filigreen is a derivate of the Latin word filum of which the first part translates as thread and the second part as granum which simply means grain. The word grain actually refers to small beads. This is why when one speaks of filigree in relation to jewelry this will provide any professional jeweler with an accurate understanding of what is intended.
To paint a comprehendible picture
One could say that filigree is a fairly delicate metal embroidery which has been created by using pliable threads which has been cut from precious metal and these are then curled or twisted into exquisite designs and in the final process the pieces might be soldered together into one single piece of jewelry.
The end result can take various shapes such as Art-Deco like designs which is incredibly symmetrical. People might also see a wide variety of lacy flourishes, spectacular scrollwork and a wide range of other astounding motifs.
It’s not only gold or silver which is suitable for decoration of filigree but rather any other pliable metal such as copper or something similar can also be used with great success.
It may be interesting to learn that the word filigree is sometimes rendered as filligree or even fillagree. Nevertheless for as long as jewelry has been manufactured filigree was always part of that picture, right from the start. This has been proven by archaeology because objects which has been clearly identified as filigree has been discovered in ancient places such as Mesopotamia and some of those items has been found to be at least 5000 years old.
Filigree has also been found in India and Asia and in fact both of these cultures have been using this art form in their manufacturing processes for thousands of years.
This will probably explain why filigree has always been extremely popular in those parts of the globe. Many people make the mistake of associating filigree with hand engraved jewelry but it is actually something completely different and the approach when manufacturing is also completely different.
One only has to take a closer look at commonly used engraving techniques and one will quickly see that the jeweler is using a solid object and will then carve it and shape it in order to add to its decorative value. This is not what is happening with filigree because in this event the jeweler is adding layers of thin metal to enhance the value of an existing piece of jewelry.