Pearls of Qatar Museums in Moscow: About the Exhibition

Yesterday I visited the Pearls: Treasures from the Seas and the Rivers Exhibition at the State Historical Museum of Moscow. I could not miss this rare oppotunity to see one of the finest collections of pearl jewellery ever assembled. More than 100 pieces have been selected from around the world, icluding the Gulf, Europe and Asia: masterpieces by Cartier, a spetacular tiara worn by Archduchess Marie Valerie of Austria and five royal tiaras from other European monarchies, etnographic and tribal pieces of pearl jewelry such as headdresses from Tibet.

A chrysanthemum brooches with freshwater pearls from Mississippi. Tiffany. c.1880

1. Reliquary or amulet case. Lhasa, Tibet, before 1900. Natural pearls, coral and turquoise. 2. Tibetan Head Ornament worn by noblewoman.Wood, felt, agate beads, jade plate, pearls. Alexander Leukin and Luc Heymans donation, 2014

“Pearls have long inspired artists and painters with their quiet elegance and mystery. This diverse exhibition will answer many of the questions surrounding these natural wonders, while taking visitors on a fascinating journey through the history of pearl diving and trade in Qatar,” said Dr Hubert Bari, curator of the exhibition.

The exhibition begins with the special section dedicated to the extraction and origin of pearls, shedding light on many unknown facts  and illuminates some mysteries still surrounding it. I could only admire the different kinds of pearls created by shell fish from around the world, including a unique collection of freshwater natural pearls from the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers in America, built by John Latendresse, a prominent specialist in American pearls.

Melo shell and pearls. Bantayan Island. Qatar Museums Collection

A seven strings Gulf pearl necklace made by Husain Alfardan

This seven strings Gulf pearl necklace is made with perfectly matching pearls. It takes years and thousands of pearls to succeed into such a creation. It was realized in Qatar by the leader of pearls of the country: Husain Alfardan who is the driving force behind one of the most successful and powerful family-owned conglomerates in the Arabic Gulf and his stock represents a minimum of 70% of the natural pearl stock in the world.


Tiara by Garrard. London, 1878. Diamonds and Pacific Oceans Pearls. The Rosebery tiara belonged to Hannah, Countess of Rosebery, the daughter of Baron Mayer de Rothschild

Tiara from the Royal House of Hannover. Gold, silver, Pacific Ocean pearls. Germany. c. 1830

Gold necklace and pendant. Natural Gulf pearls, gold, emeralds, rubies. This set is from a Jewish community in North Marocco. Marocco. 18th century. Qatar Museums collection

Pearls were fished in the Arabian Gulf for thousands of years which became the only source of income for countries such as Qatar. By the early 19th century the Gulf was the major global supplier of natural pearls. These stunning gemstones conquered Europe through the trade between Muslim countries, Byzantium and Venice in Italy. They were an expensive luxury, a symbol of wealth and status, valued and adorned not onle by kings and queens, but also sacred reliquaries in churches.

Tiara by Koechert. Gold, silver, diamonds and pearls. Vienna, 1913. This tiara was made for Arcduchess Marie Valerie, the daughter of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known as Sissi, spouse of Franz Joseph I of Austria

Tiara by Chaumet. Gold, silver, diamonds, Pacific Ocean pearls. Paris, 1879. This tiara was ordered by the Marquis of Kerouartz of France. It can be worn as a necklace as well.

Tiara that can be transformed into a necklace. Silver, gold, natural Gulf pearls. British, 1890

There is a curious section with videos dedicated to the cultivating pearls in Japan and China. It was interesting to see the creation process of japanese Mikimoto pearls and chinese freshwater pearls. Kokichi Mikimoto succeeded in creating the world’s first cultured pearl and from 1916 the industrial process of producing perfect and equal pearls was filly implemented. Chinese cultivated freshwater pearls are grown in the very resistant mussel which lives in lakes and flooded rice fields. The end result is the production of over 4,000 tons per year and only 10% of the production of these pearls are accetable quality.

The Millennium set of necklace and earrings. Paris, 2000. The natural pearls from the Pacific Ocean support a superb emerald carved in India in the 17th century. The jewel was mounted by Cartier Paris in 2000.

Necklace. Probably Jaipur, India, circa 1900. Natural Gulf pearl, emeralds, diamonds

This exhibition is a great opportunity to admire the beauty of natural pearl that have become rare, appreciate stunning historic jewelry pieces and learn exciting facts about this marvellous gemstone.

At the State Historical Museum in Moscow, Russia till the 1st of October 2018. Don’t miss it!

Sam Tho Duong. Necklace. Frozen Series. Oxidized silver, freshwater pearls and nylon. Vietnamese artist creates the growth of ice crystals on the branches of trees. The spheres are hollow and have small holes through which the black nylon thread attaches the pearls. The end of the thread is melted to form the decorative black end. With this design series he won numerous prizes in contemporary jewelry exhibitions.