Exploring the Jewelled Treasures of the V&A

 

After 10 years and 4.2 million visitors, The Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) has reopened its William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, home to its jewellery collection, after a three-month refurbishment with eighty new pieces joining the display.

The Victoria & Albert museum is known throughout the world for its incredible exhibitions, broad collections and wonderful architecture. Now, following a three-month refresh, the William and Judith Bollinger Gallery has been reopened to the public with a new floor, new lighting, improved computer systems, a glass staircase and new labels for the many treasures on display. In honour of the reopening, a further 80 pieces have been added, including Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond coronet – gifted by William and Judith Bollinger and their family – as well as a selection of jewelled vanity cases loaned by Kashmira Bulsara, in memory of her late brother, singer Freddie Mercury.

Enamelled gold vanity case and lipstick holder mounted with coral and set with diamonds and emeralds, Cartier, Paris, 1923. A loan and promised gift from Kashmira Bulsara in memory of her brother, Freddie Mercury.© Cartier International AG. Image courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The latter collection of 49 Art Deco vanity cases takes inspiration from Modernism, as well as the cultures of Persia, Ancient Egypt, China and Japan. They are beautifully rich in colour, thanks to the use of hard stones, enamel and lacquer, and are signed by the likes of Cartier, Lacloche, Van Cleef & Arpels, Charlton and other leading jewellers in Paris and New York.

Gold and white enamel vanity case containing gold key, Cartier, New York, ca. 1930. Formerly in the collection of Gloria Vanderbilt (1903-2011). A loan and promised gift from Kashmira Bulsara in memory of her brother, Freddie Mercury. © Cartier International AG. Image courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Other new acquisitions that take pride of place in the William and Judith Bollinger Gallery are around 30 pieces ranging from the late 19th century to the present day. Highlights include the American singer Beyoncé’s Papillon ring by designer Glenn Spiro, works by Fabergé, as well as designs by Ute Decker, Charlotte de Syllas, Flóra Vági and Annamaria Zanella. Of course, this adds to the incredible collection already on display, with pieces that tell the story of European and Western jewellery from Ancient Greece and Rome to the present day.

Brooch, gold and iron, designed and made by Annamaria Zanella, Italy, 1997. The Louise Klapisch Collection, given by Suzanne Selvi. © the artist. Image courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

When it came to refresh the gallery, the V&A called upon the expertise of architects Eva Jiricna and Georgina Papathanasiou from Atelier A&D, who originally led the creation of the gallery in 2008. The infrastructure and display materials have been enhanced to offer something more interactive for visitors, such as Hidden Treasures, which includes a photograph taken by musician Jay-Z of Beyoncé wearing the Papillon ring, as well as a film showing the ring’s fluttering wings in action.

Read more: The Jewellery Connoisseur's Wish List

The gallery is now open to the public and entry is free, allowing everyone to experience the sparkling and creative history of jewellery in one of London’s most famous institutions. 

Cover image: 'Blue Seanemone II' brooch, paper on silver frame, designed and made by Flóra Vági, Hungary, 2016. Given by Katalin Spengler. © the artist. Image courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

All images credit to Jewellery, Rooms 91-93, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).

This article was originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of Gems&Jewellery.

Interested in enhancing your knowledge on gemmology? Why not try one of our workshops?