Jewellery with Geoffrey Munn

Thursday 3 November / 6-8pm


Pearls and Unicorns – Myth and Reality in Jewellery

More often than not Her Majesty the Queen is seen wearing magnificent jewellery, endorsing the ancient relationship between sovereignty and finery. However the meaning of jewellery runs far deeper, incorporating three powerful incentives: love magic and power.

Join jewellery expert Geoffrey Munn as he decodes the significance of jewellery across the ages. His talk ‘Pearls and Unicorns – Myth and Reality in Jewellery’ highlights the importance of gemstones and their effect on the human psyche. Even today their power derives much from superstition and magic, but in an age before the true causes of disease, deformity and death were known, belief in the curative powers of certain organic materials was universal. Cleopatra and Samuel Pepys, for example, used pearls dissolved in lemon juice for their curative properties, and even today few are immune from their lustrous organic beauty. As with the finest pearls, the commercial value, by virtue of their magical properties, of humble red corals, bezoars (small stony concretions formed in animal stomachs), fossilized sharks’ teeth (known as toadstones) and the ‘unicorn’s horn’ of the narwhal have commanded more than their weight in gold. Sperm whale ambergris, much favoured by Elizabeth I, gave its name to the pomander; it was used as a prophylactic and considered valuable enough to be encased in gem-set enamelled gold. These and many other examples will be referred to in this lively and amusing illustrated lecture on jewellery lore from Pliny to the present day.

Geoffrey Munn OBE, FLS has spent his entire career with jewellery and goldsmiths’ work and has written widely on the subject. He is a well-known specialist on the BBC Antiques Road Show and has curated several exhibitions of jewellery, including ‘Tiaras’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2002. He began his career at the famous jewellers Wartski when he was nineteen and throughout his work there has been fascinated by gemstones and their effect on the human psyche.

The event starts at 6pm with a glass of wine in the Museum foyer and opportunity to view the exhibition 1920s Jazz Age; the talk follows at 6.15pm for 6.20pm in the Fashion Studio and lasts for approximately one hour including the chance to ask questions at the end. Ticket includes admission to the 1920s exhibition and guests are welcome to view the exhibition before or after the event.

Price £15 / £12 students includes a complimentary drink and exhibition entry.
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Numbers are limited for this event, please book early to avoid disappointment.

Image Courtesy Antique Collectors Club, ‘Wartski The First One Hundred and Fifty Years’. A gold tiara set with emeralds and diamonds and silver from the French Crown Jewels. Made by Evrard and Frederic Bapst in 1819–20, it was a favourite of Empress Eugenie.

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