Sunday, 25 August 2013

V.I.P - Very Important PEARLS

In less than a month, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London will be opening the "Pearls" exhibition. This is an event many of us have been looking forward to for more than a year and a half!. The event is sponsored by the Qatar Museums Authority and it is expected to display some of the rarest and most exceptional natural Gulf pearls ever found.

Cartier, Natural Gulf Pearl five strand necklace set in diamonds and platinum, 1930-40s. Auctioned by Sotheby's ©. Qatar Museum Authority

Natural pearls have been treasured for more than 2000 years. Having survived all kinds of fashions, they are on the same category as the most precious gemstones, both for their beauty and their rarity. Contrary to what one would think, the development of a cultured pearl market with a much larger supply has increased the value and demand for natural pearls. Recently, we have been witnessing a record breaking auction result after another every time an exceptional pearl or a set is put up for sale.

Nowadays exceptional pearls also feature another attribute, provenance. The most precious pearls have been coveted and collected for centuries now and have a history on their own, passing from monarchs and aristocrats to Hollywood stars and celebrities. The list of famous pearls is very vast and goes from Marie Antoinette to Jackie Kennedy (the most expensive faux pearl necklace ever sold) or Grace Kelly.    In just the past two years probable three of the finest pearls ever found have been sold: the Murat Tiara, the Rosbery Pearls and the one that to me reigns above all, La Peregrina. The pearl that was found in Panama by a slave in the XVI Century and which was given as a present to the King of Spain (Felipe II), such was its beauty, that the King granted the slave its freedom and the pearl owner was named Major of Panama. A few centuries later, La Peregrina was purchased by Richard Burton as a gift to Liz Taylor.

About the Exhibition
Pearls come in a huge variety of different shapes and specially colours depending on the type of mollusc they are created in. Their hue depends on the nacre that a particular oyster produces. Hence Pearls iridescence can go from white to black with almost all shades of silver, gold and grey in between like the South Sea ones, or they can be bright orange or pink opaque, like conch or melo melo pearls. Their study probably deserves a dedicated blog, meanwhile we will continue hunting for the exceptional ones...