When their grandfather founded Eleuterio 90 years ago, Luis and Rosa Antunes were far from imagining that they would be the last ones mastering in-house an ancient jewelry technique called filigree. To simplify, the filigree consists on twisting two ultra-thin threads of gold. Rare are the times when jewelry brands design filigree pieces whereas, watchmakers and Cartier to name just one master its use to pave their stunning dials. We sat down with the two siblings in Braga where the Eleuterio offices are located, 20 minutes away from Porto in Portugal…
By Eleonor Picciotto
How’s it to work between brother and sister within the same company?
Rosa Antunes – There are two ways to look at it.. On one hand it really is wonderful. We are family with a genuine brother-and-sister relationship and since we have grown up inside the company our great grandfather created, our goal is to perpetuate our family business and heritage. On the other hand, what makes it difficult is that we are very close and sometimes, our visions of certain things differ. That’s when it becomes complicated. We fight like brother and sisters, so it’s still healthy but you don’t always have the distance to leave emotions on the side. I guess this is the case for every family business…
And who wins more fights?
Rosa – I am very thin and small but …
Luis, laughs and cuts her off…- I fight a lot for everyone to hear me out but since I have been there before, and know a little more on how the business works! They look at each other with kindness…
Inside Eleuterio: if Rosa you are the the head of design and Luis you handle the business development: how do you work together ?
Luis – When I first entered the company it was on the management side while Rosa has always been in the design studio. Then I started to get more involved with the production side and today she is actually the one who’s much more involved in the day-to-day production business.
Rosa – My brother is a bit more structured and handles the operational side better simply because that’s also his managerial background. He is as irrational as I can be emotional… but since he is more able to put rules, we need him for the production!
Luis – So actually we are talking about family business with 5 children, so the initial was mom and dad with five children, Louis is the eldest, two boys, three girls. And there were a bit of family problems and conflicts and it all went down the drain, kind of disintegrated. But Louis felt more connected to the business and also felt that ‘‘If I am going to maintain this business the only one I want to work with is — (woman).
You are a family of 5 children- How come it is just the 2 of you?
Rosa – All of the children have always been involved in the business due to the fact that they have been walking around the workshops since their youngest age. They would go to the beach on holidays but then would come back and help around. After undergoing some conflicts and family problems … the family was a bit disintegrated. As the youngest kid, I went to see my father telling him that I had just finished my degree in management, and I had a project in mind that I told him about. I asked him if there was space for me in the company. Since my father really liked what I presented I started working very closely helping him a lot in terms of finance and organization and the structure of the company. We started sharing with my two brothers and sisters a vision where we should start to think about a brand. That’s when we decided to transform our family legacy into a brand in order to perpetrate our tradition.
Moving forward what is your vision about Eleuterio in 5 or 10 years.
We will try to really bring Eleuterio to an international level as a jewelry brand so that people can really recognize the heritage of Eleuterio and the craftsmanship of what true filigree is.
Filigree jewelry in people’s mind?
Luis – We are at an exciting point for the brand, especially in the explanation of filigree, where it’s really important to make people understand and appreciate the work put into a filigree piece of jewelry. At one point, some of our family pieces were exhibited at the British Museum!
Rosa – As a matter of fact, our grandfather was a perfectionist and a technician in filigree who was always perfecting the art of filigree. He managed to develop a technique that big jewelry names were never able to. The idea is we want to make an international luxury jewelry brand, but our DNA is the filigree and this is a know-how and this is not easy to do. It is very hard to make filigree at this level of this quality. Of course like in anything in jewelry it is subjective you either like it or you don’t like it. But the DNA of the brand will always be filigree because this is what they know how to do. We aim to create contemporary design jewelry using the filigree technique.
Luis – We are really working on making it more cosmopolitan, more sophisticated, with a more universal collection. The filigree perception is expanding outside from just Portugal… so anchored in our history.
Have you considered working with European designers in order for them to take advantage of your craftsmanship?
We want to stay 100% Portuguese but not with the traditional Portuguese style. We are looking for Portuguese designers with an international approach. It is hard but they exist, we know some of them and we already have some contacts!
If we ask someone ‘‘what does filigram triggers in you’’? What would you answer and what would you expect them to answer?
Luis- Handmade jewelry