January 19, 2014 saw the finale of a fabulous exhibition at the revered Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Now the V & A is not regarded as a world leading authority on fashion without good reason. They constantly strive, and consistently succeed, to be in the know. 2013 was a year of glamorous resurgence for the pearl, where these ocean gems were donned once again, by the cream of the celebrity crop such as Rihanna, and Kate Middleton. And with Chanel’s ‘Giant Pearl’ accessories set to dominate the fashion scene this spring, it seems the popularity of pearls is once again on the up and up! It is somewhat prophetic, then, that the V & A, in an expert piece of programming, opened their fabulous exhibition, simply entitled, ‘Pearls’.
In collaboration with the Qatar Museum Authority, the exhibition brought to us a collection of the world’s most controversial, most gargantuan, extravagant, ancient, infamous, contemporary, and beautiful pearls. It managed to vividly explore both the social history, and the symbolic history of the pearl, through a careful selection of two hundred fine pearl pieces.
On one bold, fresh day in January, Pacific Pearls’ UK correspondent went to London on a fresh and freezing winter’s morning, and into the depths of the V & A’s winding treasure-lined labyrinth. Ah, the things we do in the quest for pearl perfection.
The exhibition begins didactically enough, informing the visitor of the history of pearl fishing in the Gulf, with some lovely displays of typical Arabic pearl jewelry down the ages. There was some fascinating footage of traditional pearl divers and the masterful curating led the visitor through the history of pearl farming that could be understood by all. But it is on turning the first corner, that it gets really interesting…
A changing display of portraits, of queens and noble women through the ages, highlights just exactly how revered the pearl has been and stealthily enables you to put a face to the owners of the gorgeous pearl pieces you will discover, the further into the treasure trove you go. There were gorgeous portraits of the controversial Marie Antoinette, the glamorous Empress Eugenie of France, and the majestic Queen Victoria, among others, sitting proud and regal, their necks and heads laden with pearl beauties!
It is then that you began to be guided gently through the social and symbolic history of the pearl by the sparkling constellation of carefully selected pearl pieces, from pearls of the middle ages, when the pearl was used to symbolize purity and spiritual ascension, and was found delicately crafted into beautiful depictions of the Virgin Mary and Jesus; right through to the stunning contemporary masterpieces of Mikimoto and Sam Tho Duong, made possible by the discovery of pearl farming techniques.
Building to a grand, sparkling crescendo with the gorgeous pieces of Yoko, that follow quickly behind Mikimoto’s Journey of 5000 pearls, the last glint of glamour you saw, before exiting the V & A’s wonderful world of pearls, was the ethereal beauty that is ‘Frozen’, created by Sam Tho Duong, a beguiling sculptural piece, formed from silver nylon and freshwater pearls.
The exhibition inspired us here at Pacific Pearls, and over the next few weeks we will be bringing you a series of blogs inspired by the V & A’s Pearls. We’ll be meeting the Men of Glamour, and the masters of pearl jewelry creation; traveling to Renaissance Venice in search of a pearl rebellion, hightailing it back to London, to pay homage to the real Pearly Kings and Queens, meeting some truly historical pearl trend-setters. We’ll help you stay ahead of the trend for spring 2014 with a look at Coco Chanel, and her forthcoming giant pearl legacy. We’ll even be bringing you a two-part guide to pearl gifts for every star sign, so you can be super organized about your pearl shopping this year!
Most of all, we’ll be highlighting those pearl statement pieces that we at Pacific Pearls are most proud of, all in an effort to enable you pearl lovers to reach pearl perfection.