About 19.2 kt Portuguese Jewelry

The most ancient evidence of the jewelry art in Northern Portugal goes back to the third millennium b. C. It is usually accepted that the abundant gold resources that existed in that region were decisive to an early development of that kind of human activity. In fact, several Greek and Latin authors, for instance, wrote about the gold abundance in Minho, Lima and Douro rivers, from whose beds the gold could easily be extracted, only by using a sieve and washing it.

A remarkable example of the Castro civilization jewelry are the torques, a kind of open necklace, used by the warriors in that time, like the ones found at Póvoa de Lanhoso, Parada do Rio and Vila Flor Castros. The torques are also visible in the statues of that time, like the ones in the Galicio and Castro civilization warriors images, discovered at Lesenho Castro, that are kept at the Archaeology and Ethnology National Museum, in Lisbon.

Nevertheless, the jewelry piece that can be considered as the most ancient Galicio-Portuguese jewelry example is the chalice and its paten, named by San Geraldo (1096-1108), and belonging to the treasure of Braga Cathedral.

The Romanic and Gothic styles influenced decisively the evolution of the Northeast jewelry, as one can see, among other items, in the processional cross offered by King Sancho I to the Santa Cruz Monastery, at Coimbra city, dated from 1214.

As to Oporto, the most ancient documents referring the jewelry art at this city date from the beginning of the second half of the XIV century. Through them we become aware of the high social status bestowed on the jewelers inhabitants of Oporto, at that time, by the other citizens.

On the 30th December 1401 refining and hallmarking procedures became compulsory by Gonçalo Esteves, official refiner. This obligation was applied to all the silver traded at Oporto commune, thus, establishing the first Assay Office in the whole country. In fact, only much later, between 1689 and 1693, King Peter II, legislated for the punching of the assay and assayer's stamps both in the gold and silver items. This legislation was initially complied only in Lisbon, but reached afterwards other towns.

The jewelry sector is, therefore, the first of all economic sectors to have a compulsory independent quality control. Having in mind the age of the Portuguese jewelry industry, and specially its age in the North of Portugal, one can imagine the many and diversified influences it experienced and the several difficulties it went through.

In spite of that, the Portuguese jewelry industry overcame the difficulties it had to face, keeping a core of the traditional jewelry untouched. It is this core that grants to it an identity of its own and may inclusively inspire the designers and manufacturers to create a new kind of jewelry, maintaining, however, its Portuguese roots.

Bearing this fact in mind, the Association for the Jewelry and Watch making Industry of the North, accomplished the creation of the Certificate of Authenticity of Traditional Portuguese Jewelry, in 1996, a Certificate that promotes the traditional and handicraft arts and techniques of our jewelry. Nowadays, it is granted to filigree and chiseled silver items, wire covered sheets and wire covered hollow pieces, manual chains and silver wire meshed bags, with an undoubtedly manual character, which are part of our collective identity and legacy.

Who does not know, for instance, Viana's beads or the filigree hearts?... This Certificate, a black label with the OTP logo and the expression "Portuguese Traditional Jewelry", both in Portuguese and in English, can be found at the jewelry retail shops and guarantees the handicraft character of the jewelry item, conferring, therefore, an unique quality to each single piece.

Aware of the fact that a certain economic activity can only survive if there is a clear support to the vocational training, specially when speaking about young people, AIORN created, in 1986, CINDOR – the Jewelry and Watch making Industries Vocational Training Center, a very important school for the training of the young jewelers and in whose Administration Council the before mentioned Association is member, together with the Employment and Vocational Training Institute.

As to the Design, AIORN promoted, in 1997, an innovative jewelry post graduation course, allowing the integration of some designers in the sector. This was an important benefit for this kind of industry in which, more and more, the companies have to create a great quantity of different items, adapted to the tastes and to a multiplicity of consumers, in a short period of time.

In conclusion, all these are reasons for the Portuguese jewelry industry, a proud inheritor of a millenary art, to keep producing, in the future, some of the most beautiful and characteristic pieces the human intellect has ever imagined.