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Pearls at the V reviewed

The V Pearls exhibition is, as you would expect, a beauty of a show. In almost complete darkness the glowing beauty of 200 pearls and jewels shine out. Adding to the atmosphere of secrecy and treasure, many of the display cases are antique safes with glass fronts. The effect is of breaking into a Victorian bank vault and tiptoeing around in the dark peeking into hidden hoards of riches. You soon understand why natural pearls are so rare and how a strand can be worth millions of pounds. Lovers of trivia will be fascinated to see rare conch and Melo pearls formed by sea snails thanks to a process similar to that which produces kidney stones in humans. That's natural history for you.

Also on show are historically significant pieces such as ancient Roman pearls from the 1 century AD, knock off bvlgari ring zero 1 Byzantine jewels used to denote power and the "Queen Mary II" pearls from the 1600's. Crowd pleasers such as Elizabeth Taylor's Bulgari pearl earrings and Marilyn Monroe's Mikimoto Akoya cultured pearl necklace given to her by her second husband Joe DiMaggio when he visited Japan in 1954 and one of the few pieces of fine jewellery Monroe actually owned.

As I looked at pearl jewels from Roman through Tudor times, right up to contemporary designs, what struck me is how creative jewellers have been with pearls.

Imagine stepping out in gold bvlgari ring replica a dress entirely embroidered with pearls? Or fancy wearing that whopper of a baroque, the Pearl of Asia, posing as a fruit amongst gem set foliage; or a brooch of a hench torso of a sea monster rising from a golden tail? Fox trotting flapper girls and long tasselled pearl necklaces are virtually inseparable.

And then, sometime around our grandparent's generation, it changed. Pearls became ho hum, synonymous with a generation of war widows and stiff upper lips. No longer a celebrated, glorious marvel of nature, they became a safety blanket, an identikit reference point for the good middle class wife. It was all Plain Jane strands of pearls.

But that was just a blip and the fun is back as pearls have come out to play again thanks to the creativity of a new generation of designers. Don't miss the writhing "Frozen" necklace by artist Sam Tho Duong that looks like a fishing net covered in barnacles each one a minute freshwater pearl. A baroque pearl becomes the Statue of Liberty, while Mikimoto weaves an entire scarf out of these beautiful white orbs. Yoko bring us pearls in impossible pink, mauve and golden hues as fascinating as any diamonds.

Exit via the museum shop and you will find on sale "Pearl Variations" made by three Central St Martins BA Jewellery students. From a bracelet of pearls set in orthodontic braces to a chunky bulgari diamond earrings fake ebony cuff with ring bvlgari replica pearls tucked inside, it is apparent that these gems are back. Just don't expect to be able to buy natural pearls, you have to be a Liz Taylor to afford those.

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