"We want our work to inspire an appreciation of the diversity and the beauty of the authentic, of the genuine and unique."
Luis Mendez is a master artist of Luis Méndez Artesanos, based in Salamanca, Spain. Raúl, Jerónimo, and Luis are following in the footsteps of their grandfather, using an antique filigree technique to produce signature jewelry shaped of gold and silver threads.
The brothers grew up in Tamames, a town of 1000 inhabitants in the Western province of Salamanca. The company is named for their father, Luis Méndez, who took bothers Raúl and Luis on as apprentices when they were teenagers—Jerónimo joined after completing his studies in Art History at Salamanca University.
“We have inherited a family tradition,” Luis says, “and we are conscious of the cultural value inherent in our work.” In 2006, the brothers opened a gallery in the city of Salamanca with the intention of promoting filigree. “For us,” Luis adds, “the sale of our art is our total annual revenue.”
Filigree is an ancient technique that involves weaving and twisting gold and silver strands in a manner similar to textile embroidery. It was introduced to Spain by Greek and Phoenician settlers in the 16th century. Today, the Méndez brothers carry on this centuries-old tradition, shaping rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces from the spun metal.
To adorn their pieces, the brothers incorporate pearls and various gems, including rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds—all raw materials come from specialized companies. The jewels are then twisted into the metal threads and moulded in place. The work is intricate and time-consuming; the traditional charro button of Salamanca, a traditional adornment to doublets and jackets, takes three hours to complete.
The traditional filigree jewelry represents the, “the view of the peasant world with the need to believe, celebrate, and ward off evil,” explains Luis.
Their inspiration, the brothers say, comes from the legacy their father bestowed upon them. They are committed to creating, and to educating the younger generations in the art of filigree. Beyond that, they look to Old World art for ideas – 16th and 17th century metalworking, for example – to inform design decisions of today.