Sardinia, Italy-based master jeweler Andrea Usai studied the labor-intensive craft of making finely designed, heirloom jewelry for many years before he began his own independent studio. Today, Usai uses techniques which have remained unchanged for hundreds of years to create achingly beautiful, delicately configured arrangements of fine metals and gemstones. Though he comes from a village of just over 4,000 people, Usai’s work is remarkably cosmopolitan in appearance.
For all of the breathtakingly elegant jewelry he produces, Usai exclusively uses 18-karat gold and sterling silver, together with precious and semi-precious gem stones like rubies and carnelian. Tools used are traditional and simple, per ancient techniques first introduced by the Phoenicians—who came to Sardinia thousands of years ago, bringing their artistic techniques and sensibilities with them. Usai uses a combination of materials, which are partly recycled from the community in Sardinia and partly outsourced. The act of making filigree jewelry consists of tightly twisting gold or silver wire to create a distinctive pattern, which is then soldered together to create a larger piece. Hand-crafted filigree requires hours of concentration.
According to Usai, “The art of filigree will only survive by providing enough exposure internationally to create a marketplace for this dying art.” As a fifth-generation jeweler, Usai has seen firsthand how important it is to maintain hundreds of years of fine filigree craftsmanship, which, he remarks, “is one of the oldest and most beautiful art forms developed by man.”