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How to do fililgree

Your work is beautiful. I just starting to learn how to do fililgree
and I am interested in what resourses you when to learn filigree. I
saw on the Ganokin archieves a book by Leon Hornstein but have not
been able to find. WHat other resourse would you suggest.

Check out the library Filigree section at:

In Norway we use filigree for our national costumes. (bunad) I am
educated a silversmith with filigree, and my svenneprove piece is
made from 1100 small threads and granulates. I have just started
again after 20 years in advertising and design, its great!

In Norway there is a school where you can learn filigree. (Norway is
a beautiful country… O

It is called Valle Videregaande skule has now and then workshops that
last for a week or so.

I know that a jeweller named Lori Talcott from Seattle has done some
workshops wit filigree techique.

To see Norwegian filigree jewellry used (its a beautiful site!) look
at (Norske Bunader
links to left, and the links with names) (actually former Miss World
Mona Grudt from Norway is theeditor of that site)

I know some of the silversmiths take employees or students for
periods. Try some searces, or mail me off topic, and I`ll give you
some hints.

I myself have made patterns and lines and modified Adobe Illustrator
to help me draw filigree and design it on the computer - may be not
as fun as designing with thread and pencil, but definately faster
and almost too perfect.

We use 1000/1000 silver for thin filigree in carees, and sterling
for other items. We use both two, three, four and six wires
together, and both round and milled wire. From 0,27 mm up to 1mm.

The tool is most often a tweezer, but also a round plier or lots of
small tools that we make from wood and needles.

A typical norwegian costume jewellry is made from hundreds of
pieces, unfortunately they have started to cast these things, and
reduced to four small parts and taken the soul away from the
jewellry. But norwegian filigree workers are proud handcrafters and
will always keep on filigreeing as long as people are willing to pay
up to 1500 dollars a piece…grin


Well, Leslie, my former husband (now deceased) had taken a course in
filigree work here in Norway in the 1970’s. He and his dad took a
course in traditional Norwegian Slje work. That’s the name of the
jewelry used in the National Costumes here. Bjorn didn’t do much with
it, but when I came to visit once in 1988, we dragged out the
equipment and silver and he taught me the basics. I went back and
taught myself more, and learned a bit here and there. A local
goldsmith liked my work and hired me as extra help for a while while
teaching me proper polishing. Reading about general techniques helps.

As to Books, Leon’s first book I’ve got and wasn’t that impressed. I
understand he made a second one. Personally, I work with book
production and have been toying with writing a book, making it ready
for print and then seeing if I can get it published. As I’ve been
making textbooks for a publishing company here in Norway since 1994,
I figure I could make it fairly easily so that a publishing company
would have to do little more than print it.

Otherwise, I’ve found very few sources of info on filigree. Oppi
Untract’s big book on jewelry concepts and technologies has some
on it, but it’s only a small part of a very big and
expensive (but good) book. Another book, if still in print, is
Jewelry Makin and Design by Rose and Cirino. A lot of the designs are
filigree in basis. If it’s not in print, try Ebay, I’ve seen it there
now and again.

I can give you some suggestions/tips/etc by email if you like. First
of all, one difference between Leon’s technique and mine is whether
or not one uses jigs. I do not. I use my hands, my eyes and pliers to
make the shapes I use. It allows for greater flexibility. The trick
is, to use the pliers mostly as an anchor point when bending the wire
shapes and to use your fingers and the natural tension in the wire to
create even curves. Basically, I start by using round nose pliers to
bend an initial tight loop, then use my fingers to drag the rest of
the curve into shape…I don’t force the curve, but let the natural
tention in the wire determing the curve.

Once you get the bending technique and the soldering technique down,
the only thing that limits you is your own imagination and eye for
balance and design. That is what will determine in the end if you can
make it w/ filigree or not. A lot of people get scared by working
with the detailed, fine wires, but once you get the hang of it, it’s
rather easy.

If you haven’t already, take a look at my page . I documented the creation
of the butterfly from conception to completion. You can see a bit how
I work.

Jeanne Rhodes Moen
Kristiansand, Norway

What Lise says is true, Valle, about 3 hours north of where I live,
is a center for silversmithing. But the system here that she
describes to become a acknowledged silversmith is exactly one of the
reasons I cannot make it as an artist here. To call myself a
silversmith here (or goldsmith) I have to have that little document
that says I’ve gone through the schooling, the apprenticeship, and
the final project (svenneprve). Most of those who do this do it right
out of highschool or junior college level schooling. While it is
possible to do this as an ‘independent’ course of study, it was not
possible for me, as I couldn’t travel back and forth leaving the
kids with my husband, who was chronically ill…we tried to set up
for me to do this, but most of the local goldsmiths don’t want the
responsibility of training new apprentices, and 6 hours driving, plus
course work, and being a mom wasn’t workable. So, here I’m relegated
to being an amature. The other attitude I get is that because it is
filigree, it’s bunad, even though my designs are far from what you
can see at the sites Lise noted…so it doesn’t become ‘fashionable
jewelry’. Norwegian silversmiths do do wonderful work, but as is also
the case w/ the national costumes, people are becoming less willing
and able to buy the ‘real’ thing and are buying generic versions for
their kids, both in slje and in costumes.

Lise, are any of the courses given in English? If not, then people
will need a translator or a major crash course in Norwegian. I guess
if they can get into one of Lori’s courses, then that works, but
Norwegian isn’t exactly a language to pick up overnight.

Btw…just curious, are you using mac or pc illustrator? I’m a mac

Jeanne Rhodes Moen
Kristiansand, Norway

Rauland Akademiet has in English

I really don’t think the workshops are in English, but often
english-speaking teachers are brought to Norway. I have myself been
to a couple, working with art, and practical workshops like this is
more body-language and understanding how to than words. And it’s
like a holiday with learning, its fun! Most people in Norway love to
speak english to other students to practice (somuch that others
cannot learn norwegian…) so I dont think that is a problem.

A few silversmiths has started to take the filigree away ( like
Elise Thiis Evensens Huldresolv - its so beautiful!) …from the
national costumes and make wonderful things for daily use. And
people also wear pieces from bunad jewellry on other clothes now. I
use both Mac and PC for the drawings. But unfortunately my beloved
Mac is getting a bit old and slow…I`m a Mac person in soul…
Just make a tiny drawing of a little piece of the line and use the
commands to make new line pattern to make different threads. (a ring
is a little piece, skew it og make it oval… Draw clean line,
choose pattern, and with. Make one item, rotate it and reflect…
its there…Illustrator is great.

About that piece of paper - the Svennebrev, out graduation paper as
a gold or silversmith in Norway, but its not that easy Jeanne. I had
to put all the tools, silver and myself into a bag, go to another
city 200 km away, I had 60 hours to draw the work perfectly and make
it, every single piece. I used 32 hours. All the time three
controllers came to check me up and ask questions about evrything I
did, what I knew…and so on. I think its great that its no too easy
to be graduated as a silversmith or as a jeweller. Its a
responsibility to make solid jewellry. We are working with
expensive and sacred things that should last for generations. A
student with only 3 years school is not a finished silversmith, Lots
of practice is needed. But in theory, they know what thay do.

I only have one year at school, and three years in a studio before i
was allowed to graduate to the Svenneprove. Its not only how to do
an item, to understand and see how the item works in practice, (oh
my…how people treat their jewels!!) - its also chemistry,
budgets, planning, understanding evrything about being a jeweller -
quite a lot. From my class of 13 in school, only three graduated and
finished the education.

I see nothing wrong with selv-learned people that love the things
they do, they often make beautiful things, and allow themselves to
use new and other approaches to jewellry. And often they are more
willing to learn than educated stiffboned people…heh… I’ll write
you a private mail later Jeanne.


  Btw...just curious, are you using mac or pc illustrator? I'm a
mac person. 

Just an FYI, Illustrator is Illustrator, no matter what the
platform. (I’m mainly a graphic designer)

I have found the recent threads about Filigree interesting. I live
in Iceland and am mostly self taught as an artisan in silver. I was
able to read some of the Norwegian links using my knowledge of
Icelandic but I do not understand spoken Norwegian at all. I am
sure learning Norwegian for English speakers is the same as learning
Icelandic… The first 20 years are the hardest !!! “smile”

Iceland has the guild system which does not allow one to become a
goldsmith (silversmithing here is not a separate profession), unless
they get accepted as an apprentice with a master goldsmith. We
cannot even attend the Goldsmithing school here unless already
apprenticed. I am self taugh as a result. I noticed that the
goldsmithing college here has fewer books on Gold and silversmithing
in their library than I do!! I have always purchased books and
materials when I went abroad as there was so little available here
in years past. The master goldsmiths here usually wait until their
children are old enough to help in the family business before they
sent them to school. Some masters will hire friends or relatives
occasionally but as a foreigner here,

without those family ties, I could neither go to the goldsmiths
school here nor get accepted for an apprenticeship by a master.
Filigree is used here for earrings and broaches and was used a lot
on the Icelandic national costume as well. They had long belts made
of filigree:

One brave goldsmith here bucked the system and teaches filigree
courses and they have proven very popular. The style here is
different than the Norwegian style. The procedure here is to take
round wire and flatten it to use as the framework around a piece.
They then use thinner round wire, that has been threaded by a die
with course threads, as the filler wires. This threaded wire is
similar to the method Mexican silversmiths use as shown in Oppi
Untract’s big book on jewelry concepts and technologies. I also have
Leon Hornsteins book “A Modern Method…” but mine is an older copy
and only 31 pages long.

I agree that there is room for another book or three on the subject
especially since there were many different regional and cultural
styles throughout the ages. The Celts and Vikings used filigree as
did Asian countries in times past. A number of countries still use it
as an ethnic style of their own today. I have found filigree links on
the web from Kazakstan to Malta and everywhere in between on the

Peter Peterson

Thank you for the link to the Icelandic costume site. I lived in
Iceland for 13 months back in 1976 and loved it. I still have a set
of filigree national costume bottons I go while I was there.

Terri Parker
Beginner in Jewerly making

Although I’m not an expert on the norwegian educational system, I was
told that until relatively recently, the goldsmithing system was also
guild like…and often passed down father to son etc. However, as a
result of school reforms, it became more mainstreamed with other
trades. You are still supposed to go through an apprenticeship as
part of your training here, and at least down here in Kristiansand,
there are not many goldsmiths willing to sponsor someone for that,
and they are more mainstream rather than filigree etc. And the pay on
an apprenticeship is, of course, lower than normal pay, something I
cannot afford to do as a single mom. So, guess I’ll just be self
taught. And while it didn’t take me 20 years to learn the language,
it is not the easiest language to learn, but there are similarities
to english, and you don’t have to conjugate vowels! (yippi!..those
who speak french know why I say that!)


Jeanne Rhodes Moen
Kristiansand, Norway