Or at least they should be. Pearl studs – in my opinion – say so much more than a pair of diamond ones. Discrete, elegant and extremely complementary to every skin type. Lady Y had secured a couple of tickets to the V&A’s Autumn exhibition on this very subject, the history of pearls, so we threw on our twin sets, slipped a couple of rows of pearls around our necks (joke) and headed to South Kensington.
The exhibition explores the pearl association with wealth, royalty and glamour – from the days of the early Roman Empire to present day. Some of the jewellery on display are neither chic nor lust-worthy but, for the most part, the pearls themselves are quite astoundingly beautiful. Sewn into robes, garnishing tiaras worn by European royalty and, of course hanging from the ears of Elizabeth Taylor, each pearl tells a story of a particular period of time.
It seems that the grain of sand myth is so entrenched that the V&A has included a video showing precisely how pearls are formed. Tiny tapeworm larvae that live in the digestive systems of animals such as sharks and stingrays are excreted and then, very rarely, manage to get into water-filtering shellfish. Some get trapped between the shell and the outer epithelial tissue, and it is from this that the pearl emerges and the larvae dissolves.
Also examining early experiments in developing cultured pearls, the exhibition’s final section looks at Kokichi Mikimoto, son of a Japanese noodle-maker, and his invention of good-quality cultured pearls.
Open from Sep 21-Jan 19 (020 7942 2000, vam.ac.uk)
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