Sorry for the severe lack of posts recently, I've just been so busy with university this year that I haven't had time to do any posts.
Earlier in the year I went to the Pearls exhibition at the V&A Museum with my mum. Whenever she comes to visit me in London, we always try to do something cultural. I saw an advert for this exhibition and I knew we'd both enjoy it as we both love and live in pearls.
This exhibition gives you the chance to experience the beauty and allure of pearls which across centuries and cultures have long been associated with wealth, royalty and glamour. This autumn the V&A and the Qatar Museums Authority explore the history of pearls from the early Roman Empire through to present day. This exhibition was on from 21st September 2013 - 19th January 2014.
Pearls are a worldwide phenomenon going back millennia. Fascination for these jewels of the sea transcends time and borders. Natural pearls have always been objects of desire due to their rarity and beauty. Myths and legends surrounded them, chiefly to explain the mystery of their formation. Goldsmiths, jewellers and painters exploited their symbolic associations, which ranged from seductiveness to purity, from harbingers of good luck in marriage to messengers of mourning.
This exhibition is one of the best exhibitions I've been to, along with the Valentino one, blogged about here.... (http://laurajadejackson.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/valentino-master-of-couture-exhibition.html)
I actually learned a lot of facts about pearls which I never knew before. There was so much information to take in throughout the exhibition, as well as the chance to see some amazing jewellery, tiaras, and other pearled treasures. It took us about 2 hours to walk through the whole exhibition, it does take a bit of time as there's so much to read and look at, but it was well worth it! One of the most important facts I learnt was exactly how a pearl is formed......
Wonders Of Nature
~ ~ ~
In recent years, the focus of scientific scrutiny has been on the pearl itself and its formation. X-ray images have revealed how natural saltwater pearls are formed by the intrusion of a parasite such as a worm or piece of sponge into the shell’s mantle, the organ which produces nacre (mother-of-pearl). The parasite displaces cells to form a cyst, over which the nacre grows.
In principle any mollusc with a shell can create a pearl, from the giant clam to the land snail. The variety of colours and shapes of pearls is unimaginable, ranging from the exotic pink conch pearl, the brown and black pearl, the blue-green abalone pearl and the Melo pearl with its orange hues.
Pearl Fishing In The Gulf
~ ~ ~
Natural oyster pearls were fished in the Gulf from as early as the first millennium BC until the decline of the trade by the mid 20th century. The procedure of harvesting oysters has remained unchanged over centuries. The diver’s equipment was basic, a loin cloth, nose clip of tortoiseshell or wood and a leather sheath to hold the oysters.
The diver descended with two ropes: one attached to a net for collecting the oysters (about twelve per dive), the second attached to a stone weighing five to seven kilograms to speed up descent, with a loop for the diver’s foot. When he was ready, the puller attentive to his signals would let the two ropes run free. Within seconds the diver would reach the bottom, sometimes as deep as 22 metres, and let go of the rope carrying the weight.
Little do the magnificent necklaces of natural Gulf pearls, arranged according to scale and lustre, reveal the effort it takes to assemble such masterpieces. 2000 oyster shells need to be opened before finding a single beautiful pearl.
Pearl Trading In The Gulf
~ ~ ~
The trade in pearls played an important role for countries along the coast from Saudi Arabia to Dubai, especially Bahrain and Qatar.
By the early 19th century the Gulf was the major global supplier of natural pearls. Demand reached unprecedented heights as high quality ‘oriental’ pearls were much sought after by the great jewellery houses of Europe. The golden age of Gulf pearls was between 1850 and 1930. Today the natural pearl has become a rare gem.
Pearl Jewellery Through The Ages
~ ~ ~
Across the Roman Empire jewels with pearls were a desirable and expensive luxury, a symbol of wealth and status. In medieval Europe pearls appear as symbols of authority on regalia, and as attributes of Christ and the Virgin Mary in jewellery, symbolizing purity and chastity. By the Renaissance, portraits show that nobles and affluent merchants were adorned with pearls, the symbolism became increasingly secular.
By the 17th and 18th centuries pearls had become lavish adornments, often worn in a seductive manner. They were also demonstrations of high social rank. By the early 19th century pearls embellished more intimate or ‘sentimental’ jewellery to convey personal messages celebrating love or expressing grief.
The opulence and ceremony enjoyed by the courts of Europe in the 19th century was favourable for pearls, necklaces of all lengths were fashionable, from long ropes to chokers.
In Paris, jewellers working in the Art Nouveau style were fascinated by the extraordinary shaped pearls and transformed them into breathtaking interpretations of nature.
In the ‘Roaring Twenties’ urban life changed fashions, women wore short sleeveless slim-line dresses and pearl sautoirs dangled down to the waist and beyond.
Authority and Celebrity
~ ~ ~
In the East and the West tastes in jewellery may vary but the significance of pearls remains the same, with pearls worn as symbols of power and an indicator of rank in society. They were much revered objects of desire due to the rarity of natural pearls.
Rulers wore crowns adorned with pearls to demonstrate dynastic authority and the prosperity of their lands. In Russia, Iran, China and India, ostentatious displays of pearls formed an integral part of the regalia of ruling monarchs.
In Europe, royal and aristocratic women wore rare pearls mounted on splendid tiaras to dazzle and impress. As old social conventions were overturned, pearls adorned the necklines of ladies of fame and fortune.
The screen goddesses of Hollywood movies and, more recently, fashionable, media-friendly celebrities have helped to uphold the unfailing glamour of pearls.
Today the range of aesthetics in pearl jewellery is boundless and the variety of pearls quite remarkable. Whether natural, cultured or imitation, pearls continue to be fashionable and are being worn by increasing numbers of women. Pearls are a symbol of femininity and timeless jewels befitting at any event or occasion.
My mum has always worn pearls since I can remember, whether it be a necklace, bracelet or earrings and I think my love of pearls has stemmed from my mum. My two favourite pieces of pearl jewellery that I own are my pearl earrings which were a birthday present from my mum and my pearl necklace which was a birthday present from my great grandmother. Here's a picture of me wearing both pieces below....
Invest in some pearls for yourself! They're classic and timeless and they will never go out of fashion.
Thanks for reading!