Treasures from Malta: Silver Filigree Jewelry
March 14 2017
The beautiful Port of Valletta in Malta
Malta is the home of the smallest European capital (Valletta at 0.8 km2 ), the Order of St. John of Malta, balmy Mediterranean weather (it is located just south of Sicily after all) and spectacular handcrafted silver filigree jewelry.
This history rich island nation has been the home to Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Byzantines. In 60 A.D. St. Peter was shipwrecked on the island in route to Rome and brought Christianity to Malta. In 2017, Ryan Air brought me!
Our Lady of Victories Church
The first building and church in Valletta, 1566
The culture in Malta is rich much thanks to the rule of The Order of St. John from 1530 - 1778 (after which Napolean took over for a few years in route to Egypt, but was soon kicked out in 1800 by the English on request of the Maltese). During this time, the Knights took Malta through a new golden age. It became a key player in the cultural scene of 17th and 18th century Europe. Artists such as Caravaggio, Mattia Preti and Favray who were commissioned by the Knights to embellish churches, palaces and auberges. One of the highlights of my trip was being alone in the Oratory within St John's Co-Cathedral with one of Caravaggio's masterpieces, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (1608). It is the only painting ever signed by the painter. It was absolutely haunting and breathtaking.
Another highlight was learning about a special silversmith technique that is traditional to Malta and the Mediterranean basin: filigree!
Evidence of the British rule in Malta from 1800 - 1964, the year Malta became independent.
While walking the streets of Valletta, silver filigree jewelry was ubiquitous. The most important streets and many side streets had windows showcasing the detailed and delicate jewelry. I spent several hours my first night just examining window after window searching for the best I could find in the city. It wasn't until I jumped off of the beaten path that I found a lovely shop with the selection and quality I was looking for. And the best part? The artist, Matthew, was in there making pieces while minding the shop.
For two days I went back to the shop to learn more about Mathew's traditional Maltese craft and to select the best of his work for the shop. This 3rd generation silversmith and artisan was proud to demonstrate his work, showcasing to me how he is able to take a piece of silver thread and hand shape it into an intricate work of wearable art. The precision and skill was mesmerizing to witness.
Watch a video of Mathew making one of the stunning, silvery pieces here:
Mathew and Jen!
We are so proud to feature this traditional and distinct art from Malta in the shop now. The Maltese artisans have been fine tuning their craft for centuries, and Mathew's work represents the best I found in Valletta! It was a privilege to witness his adept use of traditional techniques learned from his father to create these pieces that represent his culture, life, and the history of Malta.
We invite you to explore these special pieces in the shop! I suspect you will be as dazzled!
A couple final pics:
This is Mathew's recipe for cleaning silver!
What a street near Mathew's shop looks like...it leads down to the sea!