Design Guide: What Is “Filigree” in Engagement Rings?

Leaf Filigree Diamond Engagement Ring

Filigree engagement rings are works of art: elaborately decorated and intricately delicate. But what exactly is filigree?

Filigree is a type of fine metalwork that has been around for centuries, used to create delicate scrolling, looping, and geometrical designs that look similar to lace. To create a filigree design, thin threads of metal are soldered onto a piece of jewelry of the same metal.

These threads can be soldered together to create a freestanding design within a piece of jewelry, such as the floral filigree pictured in this vintage-inspired rose gold engagement ring:

Vintage Leaf Filigree Ring

Filigree can also be applied directly to the surface, which makes it look as if it has been engraved or sculpted on the band (such as with the rose gold filigree on the engagement ring pictured below). The fact that the threads are a separate element is the reason that filigree looks so dainty and delicate.

Vintage Leaf Filigree Ring

Filigree is most often found in vintage-inspired engagement rings from the turn-of-the-century. There’s a wide variety of filigree designs, and each era had its own popular patterns. For example, flowering filigree petals capture the romance of the Victorian Period, while extravagant scrollwork reflects the elegant Edwardian Period. Filigree details were also quite popular during the Art Deco period—think of the sleek, architectural style of Great Gatsby!

To that end, if you’re looking for a filigree design for your engagement ring, consider the time period you wish for your ring to emulate:

Victorian Filigree & Cannetille.

Victorian fashion was inspired by the forms of nature: flowers, leaves, petals, and bold colored gems. By its very nature, filigree is the perfect way to realize the beautiful, elaborate designs desired by the Victorians.

But in some cases, even filigree wasn’t enough. Victorian jewelry often incorporated a design element called Cannetille. This elemental art is similar to filigree but even more intricate. The patterns are so ornate that many Victorian pieces seem to be created from lace. The lattice-like halo of this vintage-style custom engagement ring is a good example of the level of intricacy that often appeared in jewelry from that era:

Vintage Leaf Filigree Ring

Cannetille also uses wire threads, but it differs from filigree in that filigree designs are flat; Cannetille is often multi-dimensional. Cannetille may still be used for intricate engagement ring designs, and it may often be mistaken for filigree.

Edwardian Jewelry Extravagance

The Edwardian period began at the dawn of the new century (1901-1910), and ushered in a demand for ornate and lavish designs that featured lots of jewels. King Edward VII’s taste was expensive, and he set the tone for a time period that was renowned for excess, joviality and wealth.

Edwardian filigree often manifests as intricate scrollwork and other ornamental flourishes. These designs often frame and draw the eye to sparkling diamonds (LOTS of sparkling diamonds) and other gems.

Vintage Leaf Filigree Ring

In addition to filigree, the Edwardian period is also known for its milgrain designs, which feature the addition of tiny metal beads to a piece of jewelry, soldered on in the same manner as filigree. The Antique Filigree Princess Diamond Engagement Ring in Rose Gold pictured above features both milgrain and filigree elements.

While his reign didn’t last long, the designs of Edwardian jewelry hold a beauty so desired that the demand for Edwardian-inspired engagement rings still continues.

Art Deco Filigree Engagement Rings

The patterns of filigree with which buyers are most familiar are, typically, Art Deco. Forget the swirling, curling coils and flowers of previous patterns, Art Deco filigree is all about geometric shapes and clean lines. Rounded arch-like patterns may also give the illusion of a pop art floral design, like in this Art Deco Halo Marquise Diamond Engagement Ring:

Vintage Leaf Filigree Ring

While different designs of filigree may be associated with particular time periods, filigree is an incredibly versatile type of metalwork. The delicate details can add a vintage touch to your dream ring, but filigree can be used alongside contemporary design elements to create a modern engagement ring, too.

No matter how you incorporate filigree, you can find a filigree engagement ring that reflects your taste and personality.

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