Love is the all-consuming passion behind the Goldsmiths’ Company’s glittering annual summer exhibition to take place at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the City of London from Thursday, May 29 until Saturday, July 12, 2003. As Goldsmiths’ Hall is not usually open to the public the exhibition has the added cachet of a providing a rare opportunity to see inside one of London’s hidden architectural treasures.
The exhibition, romantically entitled ‘Love Story’, celebrates the eternal marriage between weddings and precious metals and focuses on four different decades – the 1890’s, the 1920’s, the 1960’s and today – illustrating wedding jewellery, silver, gifts, fashions and memorabilia, all of which vividly capture the essence and ritual of marriage in each of the four periods.
Graciously loaned from private and public collections around the country, virtually all the exhibits tell a romantic tale and were either given or specially commissioned as a wedding or anniversary present, were worn by the bride or groom on their wedding day, or have other associations with the romance of love.
A number of stunning wedding dresses and elegant tiaras recall weddings of the 1890’s, most notably the magnificent Castle Howard tiara, designed by Cartier as a wreath of twinned flowers and leaves and literally ablaze with diamonds.
Similarly evocative of the era are menu cards for wedding breakfasts, posy holders, and other fascinating items of wedding memorabilia. A charming gold, enamel, seed pearl and diamond buckle, was coincidentally given to a young bride as a gift from the Goldsmiths’ Company on the occasion of her wedding in 1899.
An essential guide for the bride-to-be in the 1890’s was the Harrods catalogue, several of which feature in the exhibition giving fascinating details such as what should be included in a bride’s trousseau and illustrations of fashionable gem-set engagement rings.
One of the highlights of the 1920’s wedding section is a magnificent casket, which was commissioned by the City of Birmingham as a wedding gift to Her Royal Highness Princess Mary. Exquisitely worked in silver with decorative imagery picked out in gold, niello and diamonds, it was not only a gift but also an opportunity to demonstrate the skills of the teaching staff at the Birmingham School for Jewellers and Silversmiths.
As is to be expected from the Swinging Sixties, the mood is light and frivolous and several wedding dresses and jewels capture that ‘look’.
Fast forward to the 21st Century, the exhibits illustrating marriages of today confirm that old-fashioned romance and the deep-rooted traditions associated with weddings are still alive and strong.
The considerable creativity and skill of Britain’s contemporary jewellers and silversmiths is much in evidence. For example, a wedding ring and pendant designed and executed by Kevin Coates, one of the leading British artist-goldsmiths, are inscribed with the date of the wedding of the couple for whom they were made and the romantic words ‘Pour toujours’.
Elizabeth Gage’s exquisite, Russian inspired, ‘Anastasia Tiara’, commissioned for the Victoria and Albert Museum’s 2002 Tiara exhibition, together with a matching cuff bracelet, will make another public appearance at Goldsmiths’ Hall. Other dazzling stars include wedding jewels by eminent jewellers such as Alan Craxford, Lilly Ann Hastedt, Jeremy Hicks, Catherine Martin, Theo Fennell and Rowlandsons to name but a few; and surely the ultimate gift for today’s bride-to-be: a hand-made sterling silver whisking bowl complete with silver whisk, the handle set with diamonds, by contemporary silversmith Deidre Woolgar.
‘Love Story’ is both nostalgic and inspirational and should appeal to anyone who harbours even the remotest romantic feelings, and particularly to brides – both past and future – and their families. Even those who refuse to be wooed by romance will find it a fascinating insight into social history and a visually exciting spectacle.