Trends & Fashion
A Narrative in Art Nouveau
Aside from being a jewelry company, Bagués-Masriera represents more than 200 years in artistic jewelry design. It is touted as the only jewelry and silversmithing firm in Spain, as well as one of the few with the oldest reputation in Europe due to a succession of mergers with three names of significance in Catalan jewelry: Masriera, Carreras, and Bagués.
The Masriera firm was founded in 1839 by Josep Masriera I Vidal, who opened his workshop at that time in the gold and silversmiths’ quarter of Barcelona after passing an apprenticeship exam. By the 1860s, in collaboration with his three sons, Josep Masriera had become an established jeweler.
Years later, upon the passing of the founder and his wife, two of the three sons—Josep and Francesc Masriera—took control of the workshop and expanded the business. They soon became two eminent names in the socio-cultural life of Barcelona, known for their outstanding jewelry design, which included the revival of several enameling techniques, as well as their painting. In 1888, at the International Exposition in Barcelona, they received the Gold Medal for the pieces they displayed.
Real renown did not come, however, until the third generation, with Lluís Masriera, also a talented jeweler like those of his family before him. In time, he would become one of the most important international representatives of Art Nouveau jewelry. The movement, which commenced in 1888, really began to gain popularity around the turn of the century. Lluís Masriera’s ability at this time to translate the distinctive manifestations of the movement—characterized by very stylized, flowing designs featuring curvilinear shapes—into jewelry is what established him as an original artist of the period.
In 1915, a significant merger transpired, blending two of the oldest jewelry and silversmithing firms in Catalonia: Masriera and the older Carreras, which was founded in 1766. The company, which came to be known as Masriera i Carreras acquired a high degree of acknowledgement and prestige throughout Europe.
It wasn’t until 1985 that Masriera i Carreras and Bagués united to form Bagués-Masriera. Founded in 1917, and also with a strong connection to Barcelona, Bagués has come to be known for their reinterpretation of techniques used by Art Nouveau jewelers in Catalan, as well as their contemporary collections inspired by the Mediterranean.
Masriera created the notion of the “art jewel,” a concept based on the jewel, apart from its utility, serving as a vehicle for artistic expression. Masriera still employs the enameling techniques applied by its founders and successive generations, such as plique-à-jour, basse-taille, and champlevé, as well as the technique invented by Lluís Masriera, called Esmalt Barcelona (Barcelona Enamel). The processes used are complex, and the enamels employed are those that give the jewels a singular translucent effect, changing according to the heat used to fuse the enamel—a delicate application requiring extreme skill and application.
Masriera pieces are characteristic of the Art Nouveau style, which highlighted both the female figure and elements found in nature, such as leaves, flowers and plant stalks from the plant world, as well as those creatures that reside in the forest, such as dragonflies, butterflies, bees, birds, swans, dragons, and frogs. In addition, many iconographic figures from the fantasy world was transformed into jewelry, the likes of fairies, nymphs, water-maidens, and women-insects—all Masriera originals.
Today, Bagués-Masriera has become one of the most highly respected firms in the industry. It has striven to revive and continue the Masriera collection, while also creating a collection of high-class contemporary jewels.
Due to its place in history, Bagués-Masriera now hosts a museum inside the new luxury Bagués Hotel in Barcelona, in which pieces from its historical collection of the Art Nouveau period are on display permanently. The hotel is located in the heart of the Gothic quarter of Barcelona which is home to a contemporary art museum and an opera house, among other emblems of cultural significance.