Carreras was one of the oldest family jewellers and silversmiths in Spain, founded by Francesc d'Assis Carreras i Mata in Barcelona sometime around 1785.
Records show that he moved to Barcelona from his home town of Mataró in 1766 and in 1785 he submitted his final sequence of design drawings to graduate from apprentice to master goldsmith. He was succeeded by his son Francesc Carreras i Duran who in 1845 was appointed jeweller and silversmith to Queen Isabel II, thereby enhancing the reputation of the Carreras name. The firm took part in the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris where they received an honorary mention. The third generation to run the firm was Francesc’s four sons and under their guidance the workshops produced a large volume of work during the 1860s and 70s. They were creating splendid jewels for clients from across the Iberian Peninsula in traditional styles using precious gems such as diamonds, emeralds and rubies. They were also making large quantities of religious artefacts including monstrances, chalices and candelabras, many in the Gothic style.
The company went through many name changes and variations as each successive generation took control and in about 1880, as the fourth generation joined they also opened a second premises on Carrer de Ferran VII to add to the one on 7-9 Carrer de l’Argenteria. This period was a real heyday for Carreras; they were exhibiting all over Spain including Saragossa and Cadiz and in 1888 at the International Exhibition in Barcelona where they were awarded the gold medal. They displayed a wide variety of pieces including a full set of Renaissance-style diamond jewellery and silver objects that were of both a religious and secular nature.
Around the turn of the 20th century they began producing pieces in the Art Nouveau style, referred to in Spain as ‘Modernisme’ and for which Barcelona was the artistic centre. Like Art Nouveau, the style focused on organic motifs and flowing forms, a preference for yellow gold and the frequent use of enamel in all its variations but especially plique-à-jour. Female figures often featured, in classical style robes of folded fabric along with birds, dragonflies and floral motifs. One particularly stunning piece is a wide gold bracelet composed of four panels each decorated with floral motifs and centred on a colourful butterfly which dates to around 1905.
At the same time another of Spain’s historic and famous jewellery families, Masriera, was also creating jewellery in this style. In 1915 the decision was taken to merge the two companies, a move that was believed would be of great mutual benefit. It was orchestrated by Joaquin Carreras i Nolla (fifth generation of Carreras) and the brothers Lluis, Josep and Ricard Masriera. The newly formed company was called Masriera Hermanos y JoaquÍn Carreras and they opened large premises at number 26, Passeig de Gràcia, perfectly located right in the heart of the city, in the most prestigious area of the Eixample district. Two years later they were awarded a prize by the Barcelona City Council for ‘best establishment’ in the city in recognition of their elegant showroom, beautiful work and fine reputation.
In 1920 they were awarded a prize at the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid and also given an honourable mention at the Salon de la Société des Artistes Français in Paris. By the time they exhibited at the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes they had shortened their name to Masriera y Carreras. They were well known and highly respected across Europe and their display in the Grand Palais, which consisted of three showcases filled with 41 pieces of jewellery and 14 of silverwork, earned them a Grand Prize.
By this time their jewellery had become far more geometric and ‘cubist’ inspired with what we would now refer to as an Art Deco style. Gold was still the primary metal used but platinum was featured more than before usually in combination with diamonds but also with gems such as onyx and ivory and of course the beautiful enamel work that they were already known for. Motifs such as birds, dragons and serpents were often used as well as those that explored the ‘exotic’ Oriental and African motifs characteristic of this period’s fascination with exploration and expressionism. They built on their success in Paris at the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona where they presented another wonderful display of pieces including bracelets and brooches, rings and earrings and in the centre a stunning diamond and platinum diadem from which a single diamond hung down, suspended over the wearer’s forehead.
During the 1930’s Lluis Masriera began to spend more and more time dedicated to his love of the theatre and slowly the firm began to falter and fall out of favour. Although they continued to produce work of great technical quality, they were no longer at the forefront of new trends and styles. In 1969 the firm of Bagués bought a 50% share of the company, injecting it with new life and in 1985 they acquired the remainder of the company and renamed it Bagués Masriera. They are still operating in Barcelona, backed by centuries of history and inspired by a rich and wonderful archive of two of Spain’s most important family jewellers.