A Retrospective on Pearls at London’s V&A Museum

The Pearls exhibition at the V&A (Picture: V&A)

Contributing to the telling of the history Pearls, London’s Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum plays host to a four-month exhibition that aims to offer a fresh look on these treasured luminous gems. For centuries, Pearls have been cherished by royalties, movie stars and historical figures enamored by it’s natural beauty and the myths surrounding it.

To properly frame the exhibition, it opens with a debunking of the myth that pearls develop from sand inside a shelled mollusk, instead, a parasite intrudes into the shell’s mantle, the organ that produces mother-of-pearl, and displaces cells to form a cyst. Natural pearls can come from absolutely any type of shell, and come in a huge array of forms and hues.

The exhibition features a dazzling collection of unique and historical jewelry pieces, such as the single drop earring worn by Charles I at his execution to a gorgeous art deco tiara, all showcased in old oak safes. One of the interesting section looks at the history of pearl diving in the Arabian Gulf, where men used weights to swim as deep as 22m and had to open 2,000 shells to find a single pearl.

The final section of the exhibition features Mikimoto Kokichi, the person responsible for the rise of cultured pearls in Japan, who thinks that every woman should be able to wear a pearl necklace.

The exhibition runs from 21 September 2013 – 19 January 2014 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. More information can be found here

The Pearls exhibition at the V&A (Picture: V&A)
The Pearls exhibition at the V&A (Picture: V&A)