Oskar Atendido: Keeping the vanishing craft of filigree jewelry alive | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

“TAMBURIN”-STYLE choker with lapiz lazuli beads. PHOTOS BY ALANAH TORRALBA

His interest in jewelry started as a child when he peered into his mother’s jewelry box; now former TV show segment producer Oskar Atendido designs his own pieces. From initially working with wood and seashells, he has since graduated to using an alloy of silver and copper electroplated in 24K gold.


His intricate pieces are then embellished with freshwater pearls and semiprecious stones like peridot, lapiz lazuli, rubellite, agate, onyx and quartz.  Many of them were inspired by those worn by his mother—delicately crafted pieces made of filigreed gold—although there are some that give off a modern vibe.


One neckpiece is made up of grape leaves in three sizes with clusters of tricolor pearls; another consists of tiny, individually made globes of silver paired with lapiz lazuli beads.


A striking tamburin-design necklace with coral beads comes in opera-length so it can be worn loose or looped around the neck twice. Prices range from P6,000 to P10,000 per item.


“I used to be a segment producer and occasional director on the TV show ‘F’ with Angel Aquino, Daphne Oseña and Cher Calvin,” Atendido said. “For one episode, we were supposed to come up with a feature on Philippine jewelry, but we found out that there were no more jewelry makers in Vigan. We couldn’t even find examples of Pre-Colonial jewelry there.”


While he still managed to cobble a show together, it got him thinking about really seeking out these jewelry makers before their craft vanished entirely. He decided to focus mainly on filigree because while it was labor-intensive and more expensive to produce, it was also more visually appealing.


Atendido has since traveled to several countries, including Russia, the US, Brunei, Indonesia and Thailand, to showcase his pieces. During a visit to a museum in Houston, Texas, he learned that the craft of filigree originated in Africa.


“From Africa, it traveled to the Middle Eastern countries and was later introduced to Spain and Europe,” he said.


His pieces, sold mainly as sets (a pair of earrings and a neckpiece), are now made by skilled workers in Baguio and Bulacan, cities north of Manila.


“My intention is really to preserve the craft because once you lose it, it’s gone forever,” Atendido said.

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