Reproducing Filigree

One of the oldest specializations for goldsmiths is on the verge of disappearing in the Netherlands: filigree. With her project Reproducing Filigree, supported in 2023 under the Design Grant Scheme, goldsmith Eva van Kempen aims to revive this delicate art form. Together with industrial design duo Ming Design Studio and various partners, Van Kempen is working on ways to make filigree more accessible to professional goldsmiths.

Video: by Robbie van Zoggel

new tools for old technique

Filigree is a form of fine goldsmithing in which twisted wire and beads of gold or silver are soldered together in a special way. The end result looks a bit like lace. Through in-depth material research and the development of specialized tools, Eva van Kempen aims to enable new applications for filigree. For example, she is developing a cogwheel that quickly and easily pre-bends a filigree wire, to then create a complex pattern by hand and with tweezers. She is also investigating whether soldering can be completely replaced by PUK welding to make new three-dimensional and flexible applications of filigree possible. With these innovations, Van Kempen aims to reintroduce filigree to the Dutch goldsmithing community.

3D-drawing of the last prototype, by Ming Design Studio

development of prototype

Central to the project is the collaboration with industrial designers Zhiya (Yona) Huang and Mingshuo Zhang at Ming Design Studio, who made the technical elaboration of the prototype. They found each other in their mutual enthusiasm for filigree. Ming Design Studio: ‘We really like the combination of traditional handicrafts and design. Filigree craftsmanship has extremely exquisite details, but the production process requires a lot of manual effort, so it has gradually disappeared from people’s consciousness. We hope to bring it back to life through innovation.'

The designers want to explore the possibilities further together: ‘Once the tool is ready, it can be used by more people interested in filigree. At the same time, the inlay produced by our tool can be used as a basic element of design to continuously create more possibilities,’ explains Ming Design Studio. Van Kempen adds: ‘We also want to start playing with new cogwheels that fit the tool, to make other patterns possible in the future.’

For this project, besides Ming Design Studio, Van Kempen has worked closely with the Vakschool Schoonhoven, where she herself trained. The vocational college provided access to their facilities to test the tool and is assisting Van Kempen in developing teaching materials for a modular filigree course.

She finds connection to the industry through the Schoonhovense groothandel Herens & Herens and the Federatie Goud en Zilver. Patrick Thio, Federatie Goud en Zilver secretary/director: ‘There is a sustained demand for artisan-produced jewellery, but we can only serve this market well if there are enough professional colleagues who have mastered the complete palette of old and new techniques, including traditional and modern filigree work.’

Montage and documentation of prototype 2, photo by Ming Design Studio
We hope to bring filigree back to life through innovation.
Prototype tool being tested, photo by Rob Glastra for trade journal Precious Metals


With Reproducing Filigree, Van Kempen is reinvigorating an age-old craft and inspiring a new generation of designers (including designers of jewellery) and artisans. The project celebrates craftsmanship and demonstrates the power of collaboration and innovation in the creative industries. The knowledge gained and tools developed will be shared with fellow professionals during a presentation at the Dutch Guild of Goldsmiths, among others, and via articles on the Filigree Embassy website. Two major articles will also be published soon in the trade magazine Edelmetaal, which will be shared with jewellers, goldsmiths, clockmakers and other professionals with a circulation of 20,000.