On our recent trip to London, high on my list of priorities was a visit to the William and Judith Bollinger Jewelry Gallery at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The exhibit consists of over 3,500 collection pieces and is described by the museum as “one of the finest and most comprehensive in the world.” And I couldn’t agree more. Walking into the exhibit is a jaw dropping, come to Jesus moment for anyone with a passion for jewelry.
The collection primarily focuses on European jewelry from the last 800 years and with the exhibit being dimly lit, the jewelry surrounding you stands out and glistens inside the glass cases like you are happily trapped within the walls of a very large jewelry box. The first impression is simply stunning. And from this high, I hit an amazing low when I learned that photography is strictly prohibited. Not being able to share these amazing jewels thru my Instagram and Facebook pages was very deflating. Although photography is allowed elsewhere in the V&A, the one exhibit I most wanted to photograph was off limits. So, thanks to Dr. Google, I can at least share a few photos found on the world wide web of these incredible jewels.
As you enter the gallery, you enter a two-story room with a surprising electric blue central staircase that twirls thru the air like a sparkling carved sapphire to take you to the second level. Everywhere you look are wall mounted cases and clear glass standing display cabinets filled with jewelry representing the ages.
The first wall begins with ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, and includes pieces dating as far back as 1500 BC. As you continue around the exhibit you are transported thru time and jewelry eras that include precious examples of Medieval, Renaissance, 17th, 18th and 19th Century jewelry, Arts & Crafts, Art Deco and ending with Contemporary jewelry.
A few historic treasures include jewelry pieces gifted by Queen Elizabeth I to her courtiers, diamonds worn by Catherine the Great of Russia, emeralds and tiaras gifted from Napoleon Bonaparte and worn by Empress Josephine. You’ll find treasures created by the great jewelry designers of Cartier, Tiffany, Boucheron, Lalique and Faberge. You’ll also find jewelry in the gallery by over 140 living goldsmiths and jewelers representing contemporary work.
To see these stunning examples of jewelry up close and personal, especially the historic pieces for myself, where you can really study the fine details of these handcrafted creations, was such a meaningful experience. One that I will never forget. Everything I have studied, researched or seen only in pictures, was now live, right in front of my very own eyes. These are not your everyday run of the mill antique jewels and I may very well go through the rest of my life and not see such quantities or finer examples of such historic pieces.
Although I was unable to share any personal photographs with you from this exhibit, I was able to find this video of the gallery so you can see what an amazing and fascinating treasure this jewelry collection truly is. Enjoy!