Jewellery at the V&A

Hair ornament in the form of an orchid made by Philippe Wolfers, Belgium, 1905-7. Museum no. M.11-1962

Hair ornament in the form of an orchid made by Philippe Wolfers, Belgium, 1905-7. Museum no. M.11-1962 (click image for larger version)

The William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery displays 3,500 jewels from the V&A's jewellery collection, one of the finest and most comprehensive in the world. The gallery centres principally on the story of European jewellery during the last 800 years. On show are jewels that reflect the splendour of courtly life, some of the finest designs from the great jewellery houses of the 20th century and jewels designed by important contemporary makers.

Historic highlights include jewelled pendants given by Queen Elizabeth I to her courtiers, and diamonds worn by Catherine the Great of Russia. The age of Napoleon is represented by the famous Beauharnais Emeralds, the gift of Napoleon to his adopted daughter, and by tiaras and ornaments worn by the Empress Josephine.

Displays include a superb group of jewellery by the famous, French art-nouveau designer, Réné Lalique, and Lady Mountbatten's 'tutti frutti' ruby, sapphire, emerald and diamond bandeau, which she bought from Cartier in 1928.

The gallery provides the first opportunity to see the jewels given by New York collector and dealer, Patricia V Goldstein, which have significantly added to the V&A' s collection of jewels by Tiffany and Cartier.

'Thistles' corsage ornament designed by René Lalique, Paris, about 1905, Museum no. Loan:Met Anon.10:1-2007

'Thistles' corsage ornament designed by René Lalique, Paris, about 1905, Museum no. Loan:Met Anon.10:1-2007

On display are exquisite pieces made by some of the most prestigious designers of New York, Paris, London and St Petersburg. There are two diamond tiaras by Cartier, a rare plique-à-jour enamel and pearl bracelet by Boucheron and a gold Chaumet bangle with a core of rubies and diamonds. Among the objects by Fabergé is an enamelled snuff box with the diamond monogram of Tsar Nicholas II.

The V&A's collection is outstandingly rich in 19th century jewellery. There are sprays of diamonds mounted on tremblers as well as revivalist jewellery in the archaeological and renaissance styles.

New to the gallery is the Judith H Siegel gift of jewellery by Castellani and Giuliano which includes the Helen of Troy necklace designed by Sir Edward Poynter.

Over 140 living goldsmiths and jewellers are represented in the gallery. The contemporary work ranges from ring sets by Wendy Ramshaw to a carved pin in recycled acrylic by Peter Chang and a vivid papier-mâché neckpiece by Marjorie Schick. Another addition is a selection from the Royal College of Art Visiting Artists Collection.

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Traditional Jewellery: In Nineteenth-Century Europe (Hardback)

Traditional Jewellery: In Nineteenth-Century Europe (Hardback)

Although less well-known today, European jewellery - jewellery worn with traditional or national costume - was highly fashionable in nineteenth-centur…

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Event - Bedazzled: A History of Jewellery

Wed 15 April 2015–Wed 24 June 2015

10 WEEK COURSE: Trace the history of Western jewellery over the past 800 years by studying the comprehensive collection of over 3,500 jewels presented in the V&A’s William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery.

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