Delicately beautiful, jewel-like flower bouquets are displayed like artworks under glass in Portugal's Azores islands in the Atlantic. But these artworks have a slippery secret: They're actually made from fish scales. Scales are washed thoroughly, sorted by size, dyed white, pink, yellow or peach with natural materials - using, say, hibiscus flowers or coffee - and then trimmed and polished. Sewn with metallic thread and studded with pearls, the scales are glued and meticulously arranged into bouquets or "paintings" by skilled artisans. The origin of flores em escamas de peixe (flowers in fish scales) is hazy: It is believed to have originated as a hobby of fishermen's wives in the mid-19th century. Today you can buy the fragile creations at Sol Mar gift shop in Ponta Delgada on the biggest Azores island, São Miguel, at the airport and in small jewelry shops. Contact the local tourist office to arrange a visit to a regional craft school, where you can watch the artisans in action. visit-azores.com
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