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sábado, 11 de julho de 2015

A journey through Portugal's North, Minho region, with the art of filigree, at Eleuterio Jewelry manufacture

(Versão em português, aqui)

We already told you about Eleuterio, a Portuguese high jewelry brand specialized on the art of filigree. We also mentioned the strategy of this family business, which is in its 3rd generation. Starting from traditional bases, they are bringing filigree into new heights of modernity, through a contemporary design. We have also told you about the collaboration of Eleuterio with a designer, Carla Matos. Now there is a new announced project with the stylist Olga Noronha.

We were recently visiting the production unit of Eleuterio, in Travassos, north of Portugal. This region has an ancient tradition of working gold for many centuries, due to the existence of gold mines, now abandoned. In Travassos one can visit the "Museum of Gold".

Filigree (from the Latin filum - wire and granum – grain) is a technique to work gold very typical of Portuguese handmade jewelry. Although it is applied in various parts of the world, it had great development in the Mediterranean area. In Portugal one can find filigree artifacts since 2500 to 2000 BC. This technique was incorporated in the rich Portuguese goldsmith heritage, to produce items inspired in the national history and culture.

The delicate use of very thin gold wires creates parts creates the illusion of gold lace, in complex items that symbolize the sea, nature, religion or love. The preparation of each piece begins with the casting,then comes the stretching the filigree wire, the skeleton of the item that later will be "filled" with this wire. At the end of the process, a small work of art is created, unlike any other because handmade by a craftsman.

There are, today, in the market, pieces of industrial filigree, made through micro-injection molds, but Eleuterio defends artisan methods.

Next we show you the various stages in the production of filigree pieces in the Travassos unit. In the following pictures you can see the cutting of the gold wire and the filling of the skeleton of the item.

Contemporary Eleuterio gold pendant

Above: 3 Eleuterio generations with the company's founder, Eleutério Antunes, right: Below, Rosa and Luis Antunes, representatives of the third generation (Luis, next to the father, on the top photo left).

Other jewels in the current Eleuterio catalog.

The polishing a filigree ring.

Another phase of the skeleton filling, with gold wire pieces.

Books with order forms and designs of Eleuterio company. Parts saw their projected form on paper through an ingenious system - soot who passed himself off through the interstices of the fine filigree.

Preparing the golden thread, making it increasingly thin. Below, after reaching the required thickness, wire is hand curled in a rustic wooden roller.

Once wound, the wire is heated three times, to be softened. If the cord was not wrapped, it would melt.

Back of the furnace, the thread is again rolled out, folded in two and ... from there, truly begins filigree production process - plaiting of the two parties several times, giving it a grainy appearance.

Winding the wire on itself is done by skilled hands, with two pieces of wood - the twisted obtained through the top part going forward, leaning on the base, and the wire in the middle.

Under the action of fire, gold is black. The roll of filigree has to go through successive baths of an acidic mixture.

Meanwhile ... polishing finished parts.

After the braiding is ready, the wire passes through a machine that flattens it. There are filigree pieces with spherical cutting edge, but normally they are made with this flat wire.

Cutting and placing the filigree segments. Some parts are made up of hundreds or even thousands of threads.

Catalogs with photos of parts and elements of these pieces, placed above or next.

One of the most delicate phases of operation - the welding of all the pieces by placing drops of gold in specific areas, then the passage of heat. One might think that a filigree piece is fragile but, with proper technique, it gets at this stage a consistency that allows you a daily use and high resistance.

In one of the workshop walls, Saint-Eloi, patron of goldsmiths.

Another wall of the facility, another St Eloi.

Our journey through the Minho ended in late afternoon in Povoa do Varzim, in the almost centennial Jewellery Tavares. This property has just been renovated and expanded, now keeping a zone of temporary exhibitions and another one for a private museum. The exhibition space was opened with an exhibition of Eleuterio jewels.

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