A little trip up to London last weekend gave me the perfect excuse to drop in on the the V&A’s newly reopened jewellery exhibit. The William and Judith Bollinger gallery is home to a fabulous array of jewels from Egyptian gold through to Perspex, paper and aluminium pieces by contemporary makers.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond coronet, designed for her by Prince Albert and now on permanent display at the museum. It’s a masterpiece of subtle design, with an almost Deco-ish feel, despite being made in the 1840s.
The collection itself is incredibly comprehensive and I was glad to see that the wonderful Townshend gem wheel still has pride of place next to the entrance. The display shows, in visual form, the rainbow of colours in naturally occurring gemstones and was bequeathed to the museum by the Rev. Chauncy Hare Townshend in 1869.
Throughout the rest of the collection there’s so much bling that it’s slightly overwhelming, but for me, the highlights are the subtler pieces. I fell in love with the magnificent Shannongrove Gorget, an embossed gold collar dating back to Bronze Age Ireland, as well as some fabulous Greek rings and earrings.
These sit happily alongside more modern pieces from contemporary jewellery legends Wendy Ramshaw (above) and David Watkins (below). It’s always such a pleasure to see their work. I was also really drawn to this gold and beryl necklace from Daphne Krinos (see top of page) as predictably I’m a complete sucker for anything vaguely geometric.
There are a host of new acquisitions to be seen, including Beyonce’s Papillion ring which was created by Glenn Spiro under his brand G. Made from titanium, green tsavorites and diamonds, it’s designed so that the wings of the butterfly flutter as the wearer moves. It’s so unbelievably dazzling that I couldn’t actually take a proper photograph, so I’m linking to it here instead.
My absolute favourite piece from the whole exhibit was this necklace (above), designed and made by Tone Vigeland from silver, steel, gold and mother-of-pearl. He apparently got the idea when a friend brought him a set of black iron nails and he realised that when he hammered them flat they looked almost like black feathers. It’s incredibly beautiful, even more so because of the unusual choice of materials, although I’m not sure my photo can quite do it justice.
The V&A is such a treasure trove of wonders (I got waylaid by some ironwork on my way to the second floor!) that it’s always a delight to visit so do pop in and see the jewellery if you’re ever passing. Just an hour of wandering around leaves you feeling so refreshed and inspired, it’s well worth the trip!
Elin Horgan designs and creates handmade jewellery in her Bristol studio. Elin’s beautifully simple handmade jewellery is carefully crafted and designed to be worn every day. You can read more about Elin’s work and the ethos behind her understated jewellery brand on her About Elin Horgan Jewellery page.