I just returned from a ten-day trip to Madrid and Valencia, Spain and I’m still floating in jet-lag land. I know, no sympathy for someone who gets to take such a fun trip! But still, I’m not all here yet. I just wanted to say a couple of things about my Etsy Storque post on pearls, which went up while I was away.
I was stunned by how many people commented and how many people love pearls. I especially enjoyed the comments about thinking that pearls were stodgy. Steve (Bloom–author of Tears of Mermaids: The Secret Life of Pearls, who I interviewed for the story) made the point that while Barbara Bush wore pearls, so did Audrey Hepburn.
They’re classic, but not stuffy, in other words. There is a lot of talk in his book about the way pearls represent virtue, innocence, and tradition, but also sophistication, drama, and haute couture. My favorite quote is from Manolo Blahnik, who Steve quotes as saying “Pearls give a gloss, a certain refinement, even if you’re just a trashy girl.”
While I was in Spain I was especially attuned to looking at art with pearls in mind. Steve told me that pearl obsession was part of what drove Queen Isabella of Spain to push Columbus to explore the New World, and that areas of the Caribbean were essentially stripped of their pearls by early explorers who could take them back to Europe and make a pile ‘o dough selling them. Indeed, when I looked at paintings in the Prado, I noted pearls woven in women’s hair and stitched to their gowns.
(These photos are courtesy of Steve Bloom and top-to-bottom depict: a rare Australian pearl plucked from its shell; Chinese freshwater pearl technicians insertinginto mussels a bead around which a pearl will form. The painting is Circle of Sofonisba Anguissola (Cremona 1527-1626 Palermo), and is not actually in the Prado, but does show her wearing a number of pearls.)
More on Spain next…soon…really, I mean it!