The Pearl Exhibition at the V&A

Necklace from the Carnevale Collection, made by Yoko, London, 2013, 18 carat white gold, diamonds, natural colour pink and orange freshwater pearls, golden Indonesian South Sea and white Australian South Sea pearls, grey and blue Tahitian pearls. © Yoko London

The Pearl Exhibition

The fascination with pearls has transcended through centuries of historical and significant figures of great wealth and desire. Being objects of desire due to their rarity and beauty and as an object portrays great wealth as you'd need a lot of money to purchase them. 
Myths and Legends surround the pearls origin however the mystery of the formation of a pearl has been discovered in recent years so the myths maintain there 'fantasy' concept. The pure beauty of them is simply captivating and the exhibition complimented that by creating an intimate setting of dimly lit lights with a single spotlight in each glass cabinet. Exuding lust and desire almost personified as everyone was so eager to get a look in it was unfortunately proven a difficulty at times to see at all. However this was all forgotten when I laid eyes on the pearl necklace in exquisite colours, a piece belonging to the Carnevale Collection. My fascination with this piece and the collection alone came about simply because it was different, an oddity to its companions and I felt almost compelled to voyage into its natural beauty that I had to publish it. Its captivating colours in pearl white and pastel shades of pink and purple was a refreshing addition to the exhibit most consisting of pearl white earring or jewellery or some form of apparel none of which seemed to fascinate me so. Except of course Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, two iconic women in the media both portrayed as captivating beauties similar to the pearls they wore on there ears and neck. But still I was far more intrigued by these coloured pearls naturally curated in a shell also a miraculous form of nature. Created alone by a single parasite (a worm) entering the shells mantle (the mother pearl) forming a cyst where the pearl begins to grow.
The coloured pearls (Culture pearls from the South Sea) which is what I was particularly interested in come in countless colours and variations due to the different types of molluscs they are grown in and even how they have been farmed affects the colour variation. With the mother of all pearls Pinctada Maxima creating the desire for south sea pearls creating the finest of its seas in marvellous vibrancies and iridescence; often white or grey or a beautiful golden gem of even more vibrancy. The Pinctada Margaritifera however creates the infamous Tahitian black pearl although now always true to its name as the black lipped oyster often creates white pearls and the black pearls often take on a green or blue hue sometimes even a lustrous aubergine almost reminiscent of the colours of a peacocks feathers, its a spectacular find that's for sure. With the black pearl actually being one of the rarest and therefore most expensive of the pearl family it is a rarity to see and at the pearl exhibition at the V& A we were lucky enough to set eyes on a natural pearl it was an extraordinary sight. More extraordinary even as it is often not black but the name itself originates from the organism it is produced in.

The iridescent colours our captured in the X-ray image. A black pearl in a black lipped oyster.
Unfortunately as I learnt at the exhibition the rarity of the pearls has decreased rapidly as the natural ones our harder to come by and the cultured ones our farmed in mass production therefore deducting the expense of what we now no as a common element in jewellery and make-up, the pearl. The exhibition itself compacted a vast amount of information into a simple set out production of garment, images and jewellery the concept was there however the planning was not although I was previously told it took nearly ten years to plan the exhibition the space and the layout was not complimentary of that long process. It was a claustrophobic event with the older generation knocking you out of the way and in the viewpoint of the pearls. The restriction of being unable to sketch or take photos was also a nuisance considering the contents of our project however over all the exhibition held a great amount of knowledge and wealth that I feel honoured to have parted with.


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