In recent years several brand new exhibition spaces have opened and existing display areas have been made more accessible. The character of the original Victorian buildings has been carefully preserved.
One of the V&A's newest free to enter attractions is a stunning two-storey jewellery gallery featuring more than 3,500 pieces of beautiful gems and jewellery spanning a period from ancient Greece right up to the 21st century.
The exhibition asks how and why gems and jewels are at the centre of fashion. Three specially commissioned films show how jewellery is designed and created. Interactive computer screens let visitors make detailed searches of the collection and see selected items close up.
Gems and Jewels on Display - Four Years in the Making
The new gallery is the result of a very detailed and carefully executed four-year renovation plan, only possible because of a generous donation from Mr & Mrs Bollinger. Since opening the exhibition is one of the outstanding highlights of a visit to the museum.
When the gallery opened Mark Jones, Director of the V&A, said:
"The power of jewels lies in their beauty and their ability to stir human emotions. The V&A has one of the finest collections of jewellery, and the imagination and passion of William and Judith Bollinger have allowed us to create a gallery worthy of this collection".
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A Beautiful Display of the Most Fabulous Jewellery
The exhibition charts the history of European jewellery from the ancient past, through the medieval era, to the 21st century. Highly prized pieces from the courts of Europe and Russia are shown along side remarkable modern examples by some of the 20th and 21st century's most famous arts.
Fascinating and rare items, made of paper, acrylic and titanium, share display cases with medieval love rings, a Celtic breastplate, intricate necklaces, stunning diamond tiaras and bows, as well as pendants and brooches. The show also includes a range of dress ornaments and unusual steel buckles.
Over 140 living jewellers have presented fine examples of their work to the gallery. These appear alongside rare pieces created by Nitot & Fils, Tiffany, Cartier, Boucheron, Phillippe Wolfers, Lalique, Fabergé and Jacques-Ambroise Oliveras.
The high point of this breath-taking installation is an emerald necklace and earrings presented by Napoleon Bonaparte, and his consort Josephine, to their adopted daughter Stephanie de Beauharnais. The set is named after her. Also on show is a brooch, comb and earrings of enamelled gold set with cornelian intaglios made for the Empress Josephine around the turn of the 19th century. The glittering diamonds worn by Catherine the Great of Russia and jewels once owned by Queen Elizabeth I are also on display.
Of the modern pieces, a brooch by Scottish designer Peter Chang attracts plenty of attention from visitors, as does Wendy Ramshaw's White Queen (1975). The White Queen is made from gold with sapphires, pearl and enamel; acrylic stand with gold crown.
Cromwell Road, Kensington, London, UK
More at the V&A
The museum offers a lively programme of exhibitions ranging from carpets from the middle east to ceramics from Roman times to the present day. Further information and tickets to all special exhibits can be obtained directly from the V&A Museum.
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