Áureo is a Portuguese adjective meaning golden or gold coloured. But it also denotes something of great value, brilliant, magnificent or imposing. So what better location for a jeweller’s store than Lisbon’s Rua Áurea/Rua do Ouro?
Located between the Santa Justa Elevator and another Historic Shop (Óptica Jomil), the Ourivesaria Sarmento can only be entered by request, i.e. by ringing the bell. This was a common practice in the jewellery trade, or whenever access was to be given to an unusual array of precious objects. The contents of this shop are not just valuable for the obvious reasons – the gold and silver – but also for its unique collection of documents and instruments. The collection tells a significant part of the history of the shop and other jeweller’s stores in Lisbon, many of them since disappeared – such as Aliança, Relojoaria Maury or Ourivesaria Granada – and some of them with their doors still open, and also contains invaluable information on other Historic Shops, such as the Ourivesaria Barreto & Gonçalves.
Rodrigo Sarmento, one of the shop’s owners, has gathered together so much information on this subject that he dreams of writing a book. While we await its publication, many of the pages of this book-in-the-making are sketched out in the vitrines and displays in the shop. But better still, the exhibits are three dimensional and original.
Although it is very much the embodiment of the traditional shop, and its collection gives it almost the aura of a museum, the Ourivesaria Sarmento has also played a pioneering role within the branch in its support of new generations of designers. The “Espaço Sarmento” (Sarmento Space), which emerged in 2010, occupies a prominent place inside the shop – immediately when one comes in – promoting jewellery designed by artists such as Filipe Caracol, Ana Sales, Sónia Adonis and Inês Telles. For the “Espaço Sarmento” initiative a new opening event is organised every two months more or less, at which not only the work of a young designer is showcased but also other decorative arts pieces are exhibited.
The Ourivesaria Sarmento was founded in 1870 by João Joaquim Rebello, and some years later the great-great-grandfather of the current owner, Wenceslau Antero Lopes Sarmento, joined the company as an assistant. Ten years later the two became business partners and the firm’s name reflected that union: “Rebello e Sarmento”. The shop has now been managed by six generations of the Sarmento family. The “Rebello” part was dropped from the name after the founder’s death.
Initially, the shop space was just the corridor connecting the entrance to the back, where the workshops were. When the workshops were closed, and the work on special orders or more distinguished pieces was transferred to other workshops outside the shop, it was possible to augment the shop space. In the 1940s there was a total remodelling of the space by the architect Cassiano Branco, which, with the exception of the stone cladding on the façade, has remained unaltered. In addition to the assortment of antique and contemporary design pieces, the visitor can purchase other pieces produced in Portugal and also traditional Portuguese jewellery in the usual formats available in all jewellery stores: bracelets, necklaces, earrings, broches and rings, etc. One can also find silverware: platters, bowls, boxes, tea services and cutlery.
The shop is also authorised to carry out diverse valuations, offering an expert trained for that purposed at the Portuguese Mint and Official Printing Office.
Filigree work in gold, silver and gold-plated silver; contemporary jewellery by Portuguese and foreign designers; exclusive Portuguese silverware; 'Espaço Sarmento' — decorative arts exhibitions; experts/valuers officially recognised by the Portuguese mint