September 18 - The Victoria & Albert Museum in London hosts an exhibit exploring the history of pearls through the centuries from the early Roman Empire to present day. Sharon Reich reports.
They have adorned crowns and been worn as a symbol of purity, power and seduction throughout the ages. Now pearls are at the center a new exhibit at London's Victoria and Albert Museum. More than 200 dazzling pieces of jewelry explore the allure of the ocean's natural gem. Co-curator Beatriz Chadour-Sampson. (SOUNDBITE) Beatriz Chadour-Sampson, Co-curator of Pearls exhibit, saying (English): "Unlike any other gem, pearls have continuity in being worn over centuries, if not thousands of years and they were worn not only in western Europe, but also in the east, so east and west - pearls are a global phenomenon." The exhibit goes back in time with a rare collection of molluscs from the Qatar Museums Authority. At one time the Gulf was the only place to dive for pearls - making it an incredibly important part of trade for countries like Bahrain and Qatar. Hubert Bari will be Director of the future Pearl and Jewellery Museum in Qatar. (SOUNDBITE) Hubert Bari, Curator of pearl collection in Qatar and Future director of the Pearl and Jewellery Museum in Qatar, saying (English): "The highlight of the exhibition is these beautiful necklaces made of natural pearls from the Qatar waters. They are exceptional in quality and in shine. Today it is extremely difficult to find these kind of necklaces, there is no more pearl fishing, it is just a little anecdote if some people find pearls sometimes." Other highlights include jewelery from the Roman Empire as well as Asian pearls in a variety of unusual colors. The "Pearls" exhibition will be on display through January 2014.