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Josep Masriera Vidal opened his first workshop on the Carrer dels Vigatans in Barcelona in 1839 after completing his apprenticeship.
The following year he set up a wholesale business at the same premises and in 1860 the firm exhibited their jewellery at La Exposición Industrial y Artística de Productos del Principado de Cataluña. The business grew steadily and successfully and in 1871 at the Exposición General Catalana they displayed goldsmith work and jewellery including a range of enamelled pieces for which they were highly praised and awarded prizes. Josep’s sons Josep and Francesc joined him in the business and they moved to the busy shopping street of Carrer Ferran VIII. In 1889 they were awarded a medal and a diploma for their exhibition pieces of jewellery and silverware at the Paris Exposition Universelle but it was the 1900 Exposition that proved a turning point for the firm.
Josep (junior’s) son Lluís had been studying at the Academy of Beaux Arts in Geneva where he was taught by the famous enameller, Edward Lossier and had travelled to Paris where he had been exposed to the work of Art Nouveau master’s such as Rene Lalique. He returned to Barcelona and took his place in the family business bringing with him a plethora of new stylistic ideas which saw the business sell off or melt down most of its existing stock and create new collections of Art Nouveau and Modernisme inspired jewels. The new inventory took six months to create and was debuted to the public on 21st December 1901 with the pieces proving an immediate and sell out success. In 1906 Masriera was commissioned to create a tiara for Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain as a wedding gift from the people of Catalonia, it was a spectacular piece, rich in symbolism and set throughout with diamonds and decorated with pearls and enamelwork.
In 1915 Masriera decided to join forces with another of Spain’s historic and famous jewellery families, Carreras, who were making jewellery in a similar style. The merger, (which they believed would be mutually beneficial) was orchestrated by Joaquin Carreras i Nolla (fifth generation of Carreras) and the brothers Lluís, 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 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.