Pearls at London’s historic V&A museum needs no decorated title or elaborate explanation. Pearls promotes itself, exuberating class, elegance and splendour alongside an air of mystery and magic.
This exhibition will both educate and amaze you…
We discovered that the story of a grain of sand transforming into a pearl was in fact a common myth, most probably derived by pearl collectors and the grandiose when they were made aware of the actual bioscience behind there truthful birth. A pearl is in fact a calcium carbonate sort of cyst; created by the intrusion of parasites from fish excrement into layers of shellfish. This weird but wonderful process creates, in our opinion, the most luxurious gem of them all.
After a short introduction to the biology it follows on to describe the fishing, marketing and selling processes. The V&A have adopted heavy set, vintage, mahogany, chest safes to display their stunning and varied collection and we were blown away by the range and decor of the pieces; tiaras, brooches, hair clips, earrings, ornaments, rings, clothing and paintings.
They have in their possession the single, pearl drop earring King Charles I wore when he was beheaded in 1649. As well as a delicate, and worryingly small, choker of pearls given to Mary Queen of Scots by her husband as a token of love, which consequently led to his execution for suspected adultery. (We believe she was a slightly jealous Jane!)
Historically pearls were believed to connote purity and fidelity as well as social status and wealth. Perhaps this lends itself to the continued popularity of them today, but to us pearls will always symbolise decadence, magnificence and femininity, channelling Audrey in Breakfast at Tiffanys.
Elizabeth Taylor’s pearl ring with oversize drop earrings and Marilyn Monroe’s stunning short, pearl necklace, given to her in 1954 by Joe DiMaggio on their honeymoon, for us, were the gleaming stars of the entire exhibition. Iconic women with iconic jewellery. Hence forth the pearl has been, and always will be a symbol of timeless style and effortless beauty.
Pearls is at the V&A until February 2014.
Admission by ticket only £10
Available from main desk or online.
All images courtesy of the V&A