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© Geoffrey Rowlandson

Exploring the history of natural pearls from the early Roman Empire to the present, this exhibition explores their associations with wealth, royalty and glamour across cultures and centuries. Jewellery on display includes a sixteenth-century salamander pendant, art nouveau pieces, a group of tiaras worn by European royalty and a pair of drop pearl earrings owned by Elizabeth Taylor. You can also expect to see robes embroidered with pearls, worn by Far Eastern rulers, and portrait paintings and photographs documenting the fashion for wearing pearls and their symbolism in East and West. The show also examines early experiments in developing cultured pearls.


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The V&A have done it again. They never cease to amaze me with the their skillfully crafted beauties that they put on display.

This might just be the best curated exhibition of the year. The V&A has worked its magic and sourced some incredible specimens from around the globe. They have used this huge variety of artefacts, jewels and artwork to articulate the history, science, beauty and mystique of these unique gems. One of the greatest challenges of displaying any tiny precious objects is how to stop them getting lost. The curators have done a marvellous job; beautifully restored antique safes have been used to present a few key pieces at a time. The safes provide a backdrop in dull, dark metal which frames and contrasts beautifully with their contents. They also serve to remind us of the very high value of each item within. This comprehensive exhibition covers all aspects of pearls, including traditional methods of harvest and manufacture, cultural and religious significance, their role in the fashion industry and modern means of production. While thorough, it is in no way heavy; instead the viewer is teased from one display to the next by ever more exquisite jewels. In their wisdom, the tickets for each timed entry are quite limited, making it feel all the more exclusive. Not to be missed. For more of the latest art reviews, check out | @CuratedLondon