What I did on my summer vacation
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The multi-million dollar William and Judith Bollinger Jewelry Gallery of the Victoria of Albert Museum is a wonderful way to appreciate and be inspired by 800 years of mostly European history of jewelry design. The gallery is beautiful and had to be to really showcase the jewelry. I thought the glass spiral staircase going up to the second floor was neat, as it did seem to be a crystal walkway.

Some of their past exhibitions featured special jewelry from their collection and others. One spectacular one was on the Style and Splendour of Queen Maud. She was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria who became the Queen Consort of Norway and a well known fashionista of her day. Shown above is her choker style pearl and diamond necklace on the mannequin bearing her coronation robes. That style of necklace was popular during her time as you can see from an old photo of her below. (Aren't you glad we don't have to wear corsets anymore?)

Another of their past exhibitions was just on tiaras - 200 of them in the largest collection ever put together.

The famous Manchester tiara was on permanent display so I got to see it. If you remember the bejewelled biography series post I wrote about the American Dollar Princesses and their jewels, the Dukes of Manchester were wastrels. No wonder this tiara (below) was given to the British government in lieu of back taxes. Even the aristocracy used fake gems - the "diamonds" at the back of the tiara were paste (glass).

The Manchester TiaraImage by Swamibu via Flickr

Another famous jewelry parure was the lovely emerald and diamond set which Josephine Bonaparte bought for her daughter (see my past post).

Surely the most ugly jewelry ever in my view is the Canning jewel named after Lord Canning who bought it in India c. 1860. Its claim to fame is the wierd use of a baroque pearl for a merman's torso. The gem encrusted pendant is now thought to be a 19th century Renaissance revival design.

In contrast, I was charmed by the art nouveau jewelry of Rene Lalique. One design owned by the V&A is this hair ornament.

Many of the historical and modern jewelry on display were inspirational to modern jewelry artisans. Whilst I was there I noticed people sketching designs as references as photography is not allowed.

And finally, the V&A gift shop - one of the best I have ever seen anywhere. There you could buy jewelry from modern artisans as well as other beautiful articles. Thanks to modern technology, you can see for yourself what they sell online.

As a souvenir of this memorable visit, I bought a couple of pairs of zipper earrings for Debbie, my co-instructor and friend and me.

V and A Jewellery - Treasures brought to sparkling life
Sparkling Legacy
Clare Phillips (2000) Jewels and Jewellery.V&A Publishing

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