The fine intricate workmanship requires keen vision and a steady hand. It is one of the oldest and most beautiful of art forms developed by man. The ancient soldering was accomplished by using flame and a blowpipe. Borax was used with the solder to complete the process.
The word derives from the Spanish filigrana, from "filar", to spin, and grano, the grain or principal fibre of the material. By extension, it may be used in a number of contexts to describe anything considered delicate, intricate and elaborate. The art form is traced back about 5000 years and has been practiced worldwide in places such as Greece, Russia, India, Ireland, Italy, and Spain just to name a few. The Moors introduced the art form to Spain. From there it migrated to New Spain (Latin America) where indigenous craftsmen duplicated techniques. This Spanish influence reflected in Mayan and Aztec designs which can be seen in contemporary Latin American Filigree.
The Spanish brought the art form to New Mexico where Spanish as well and native Americans learned the craft. Early filigree artisans in New Mexico were known as plateros or silversmiths, even though almost all of them worked primarily with gold. Many of the most common items produced by plateros were pendants, earrings, necklaces, hair pins, chains, and brooches. Plateros traveled the state selling and taking orders from those who could afford their jewelry. Very few artists today are carrying on the tradition due to the time involved.