Since the dawn of time, the subtle power of pearls has exerted a magical attraction for the female gender. Naturally seductive, the gems are associated with both the divine and the corporeal. Their beauty is timeless and universal, and that is one of the reasons why pearls are celebrated as metaphors for virtue and love, wisdom and justice. The spiritual aura and high prices of pearls have made them objects of communication, and for millennia, only the most wealthy, powerful and holy owned them.
During the 20th century, the cultured pearl has outmanoeuvred its natural peer. Natural pearls are appreciated by a connoisseur clientele, which hold these rare, chance treasures of the sea in high esteem. But even after the ascend of cultured pearls, royalty is still staged with pearls in formal state portraiture, almost as a rule.
In 2011, I had the pleasure of arranging and curating an exhibition entitled, Pearls — Royal splendour, modern design, held at the Rosenborg Castle in Denmark, together with goldsmith Bodil Binner. On display for three and a half months in the beginning of 2012, generous loans of royal pearl objects, jewellery, historic oil paintings and other creations provided an impression of the pearls in royal Danish possession over the last 400 years, while works by present-day goldsmiths and jewellery designers illustrated contemporary pearl trends of today.
Her Majesty, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, showed great magnanimity by lending her favourite pearl jewellery suite, composed of a large necklace, earrings and tiara from The Royal Entailed Personal Property. This special legacy, which only the reigning queen has access to, got contemporary designers and goldsmiths rising to the challenge of creating jewellery, hollowware, objets d’art, and other creations for the exhibition. We had the Australian pearl company Autore, and Schoeffel from Germany participate in the exhibition. Representing Denmark, eight companies each presented their view on how to don pearls in the 21st century.
As for me, I will never look at pearls the same way again. Having examined several of the large Danish royal natural pearl creations close up, each layer of nacre holds its own story, its own fascination and leaf of Danish royal (and national) history.
From the Renaissance saddle of the opulence-loving King Christian IV, the exact number of pearls — some 80,000 — is known from the diary of Jules Verne after he visited Copenhagen. The large pearls are set on the crown jewels, where their form on the jewels have been shaped by the use of Danish queens for the past 350 years.
Image opener: The fairy dream choker with grey freshwater cultured pearls, clasp of oxidized silver with 17 brilliants (a total of 0.12 carat) and grey chiffon ribbon with 12 freshwater cultured pearls, Trille & Liva Folkvardsen, Royal Court-jeweller P. Hertz