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HIDDEN LONDON [18]: Hidden Gems

Bollinger Jewellery Gallery at the V&A

Room 47 British Museum, Hall Grundy Collection at Kenwood House.

This week, I thought I would focus on Hidden London’s Hidden Gems, as my weekly talk on Friday is about vintage jewellery, Hatton Garden and silversmithing.

The Bollinger Gallery hidden away at the centre of the V&A museum was recently refurbished and expanded, though at the moment is closed for lockdown. It is a treasure trove of ancient and historic jewels but also includes contemporary pieces as well. You walk through a narrow turnstile into a dark and luscious jewel box of a room, where the walls are lined with sparkling cabinets full of gems.

Snaking up two floors are freestanding cases that display exceptional jewels. Faberge, Lalique Cartier are all there but also Art& Crafts enamel silver jewellery retailed through Liberty, and a special spiral display of gem set rings bequeathed in the mid C19th by Rev Chauncy Townshend, where they are some real corkers! Red or Green diamonds anyone? Also some of the large C19th Diamond corsages and stomachers are set “En Tremblant’ and not that I’m saying you should do it, but lightly stamp your foot near the cases and you will see some extra sparkle.

Hidden away upstairs at the British Museum, is room 47, often overlooked as one heads to see “The Marbles“ or the Mummies in the Egyptian galleries. It contains a lot of grand ceramics, glass and silver from the C19th but also a wonderful collection of detailed C19th jewellery almost decade by decade, so if you want to know what was fashionable in 1840's this is the place to come. It includes Whitby Jet ,Italian Micro Mosaics and carved coral and cameos, as well as diamonds and precious stones. In the following room are some Art Nouveau and Deco pieces amongst the china and glass.

Lastly up in Hampstead at beloved Kenwood, [ that you should visit for the art alone Vermeer, Rembrandt and Gainsborough’s Countess Howe et al ] , is a small collection of jewellery, portrait miniatures , almost the selfies of their day and shoe buckles. This naturalistic collection was bequeathed by Ann Hall Grundy, who throughout her life set out to improve the nations collection of fine jewellery, giving many pieces to the BM,and other national museums , along with Kenwood which has a selection of Georgian and Victorian pieces. To match the period of the house, Cut steelwork mounted with Wedgwood Jasperware particularly stand out.

Lastly, one must mention the Cheapside Hoard of late Tudor and Stuart gems kept by the Museum of London, sadly little of which is currently on display, but I have been informed will have its own dedicated gallery when the museum moves to the new Smithfield site in the coming years, with a proposed opening date of 2024.

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