The highly anticipated Pearls exhibition is opening to the public at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London tomorrow. This is a phenomenal opportunity to be educated about the jewel from the sea, as well as ogle some of the most beautiful and historically important examples that feature them.
Showing 200 pieces of both natural and cultured pearl jewelry, the exhibition spans from Roman examples circa the first century AD, right up to works of craftsmanship completed in the last few years. Attendees will learn the real story of how pearls are formed (hint: the whole ‘grain of sand thing’ is a myth), the process of harvesting them, what they symbolized to different eras, and also how cultured pearls came to be.
Highlights of the exhibition include Marilyn Monroe’s strand of Mikimoto cultured pearls given to her by Joe DiMaggio in 1954, the pearl drop earring worn by King Charles I when he was executed in 1649, and the Rosebery Tiara, made by Garrard in 1878 which features enormous dangling pearls. In addition to these, there are pieces from every major period and from across the world, which just goes to show how universally loved they are.
The exhibition is being held in conjugation with the Qatar Museum Authority (QMA), which hosted a smaller exhibition of its own prior to this one. There is a long history between pearls and Qatar, as pearls from the Persian Gulf used to be the mainstay of the economy until oil was discovered in the 1970s. The QMA has quietly been buying up the very best pieces at auction over the last decade (the Rosebery Tiara being one of them) and is planning to open a pearl museum in Doha in 2016.
The exhibition is open from September 21 to January 19, 2014. Watch a video clip from the BBC on the show below.