Gold: Power and Allure
At a private view held by the World Gold Council, invited guests from the worlds of gold, finance, media, fashion and design met and previewed the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition, "GOLD: Power and Allure" at the Goldsmiths' Hall where hallmarking in the UK first began.
Guided by David Lamb, Managing Director, Jewellery and Marketing, World Gold Council was immediately struck by the scale and ambition of this exhibition in telling the story of gold in Britain from its very beginning, just days away from London Olympics, when the world's elite will strive for gold, the ultimate mark of success.
"Because we at the World Gold Council are passionate about tomorrow's jewellery as well as yesterday's, it seemed a wonderful chance to sponsor the exhibition and commission two special pieces to illustrate those two words, Power and Allure. Power is brought to life by the "Pleiades" collar, a jewel for a modern warrior queen, by Wright and Teague, hand-fashioned in the very heart of London and inspired by the earliest known piece of gold jewellery ever found in Britain, a Lunula which can be seen in this exhibition. And Allure turns into Polly Gasston's "Wreath", a delicate coronet of ivy leaves and buttercups, made out of luscious 22 carat gold; hers is a gloriously English, feminine piece, an Olympic wreath plucked from English hedgerows, " said David Lamb.
At the opening ceremony of the exhibition, The Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor, Alderman David Wootton commented,
"The Worshipful Company of Goldsmith's new exhibition 'Gold: Power and Allure', is a breath-taking display of over 400 gold items – dating from 2500BC to the present day.
Gold has played an incredibly important role in our country's history and development – commercially, socially and artistically – and is showcased by this stunning exhibition to great effect. I encourage everyone to visit the exhibition and marvel at the many golden wonders of our City – itself, the gold standard for civic and business life."
“Gold: Power and Allure” exhibition at Goldsmiths’ Hall, sponsored by World Gold Council is the most comprehensive and ambitious exhibition of gold ever staged. It powerfully tells the rich and previously untold story of Britain and its relationship with gold, demonstrating the country’s unique golden heritage.
This major landmark exhibition celebrates the working and use of gold in the United Kingdom over the past 4,500 years and showcases more than 400 gold items ranging in date from as early as 2500 BC to present day.
It includes rare and exquisite works of art, combining sophisticated artistry and skill, together with pieces of exceptional historic significance. All the exhibits, displayed over three floors at Goldsmiths’ Hall, have been loaned from distinguished institutions and private collections and may have rarely been seen in public before.
Paul Dyson, Director of Promotion the Goldsmiths’ Company, said:
“This has been one of the most exciting projects I have worked on. Gold is such a mesmerising subject and it has been thrilling to discover, with the enthusiastic help of our curator Helen Clifford, so many rare and unique gold treasures.
It is remarkable how gold touches our lives on a daily basis. I am also awed at the enduring quality of gold and given it is one of the world’s most recyclable materials it is totally remarkable that so many rare works of art have survived.”
This is the first time such an extraordinary group of objects has been brought together. It tells a story of passion and power, fortunes lost and gained, and the special place this metal plays not only in our national, but also our personal histories.
Historian Dr Helen Clifford, the curator of the exhibition, explains: “Gold: Power and Allure” presents the opportunity of a lifetime. The challenge has been to draw together the many strands that make a single precious metal so special and central to human society.
“With the focus on Britain it has been possible to assemble a story that goes far back into geological time and forward to the most cutting edge goldsmithing, where this country excels.
“It reveals a story of the continuity of man’s fascination with gold, from the Bronze Age to modern City finance, via a breath-taking range of more than four thousand years of work. In essence it is a story of global connections and one where the familiar is transmuted into the iconic, via the power of gold.”
Book published in association with Paul Holberton publishing, London by Helen Clifford.
Book published by the Goldsmiths’ Company
As part of GOLD: POWER AND ALLURE Goldsmiths’ Hall are launching to coincide with the exhibition an online directory of gold exhibits across the UK, from historic gold items behind glass to gold leaf ceilings in stately homes and even restaurants with gold novelty dishes on the menu.
Explore further here: www.thegoldtrail.co.uk
Film Director & Camera: Jonathan Clabburn
Editor: Santeri Enstedt
Photographer: Robert Wyatt
Pleiades by Wright and Teague
Wreath by Polly Gasston Goldsmith
My association with precious metals is probably hereditary, as my maternal grandfather worked in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter. It was perhaps natural, after a first degree in History from Cambridge, to gravitate towards a doctorate focused on a partnership of goldsmiths and jewellers.
This was published by Yale University Press in 2004, as Silver in London The Parker and Wakelin Partnership 1760-1776 which cast new light on the operation on this luxury trade.
While researching the Ph.D. I was fortunate to be taught the basics of Goldsmithing at the Royal College of Art, and as a result have combined historical research, writing and lecturing with support of contemporary goldsmiths. In 2004 I left a teaching post at the Victoria and Albert Museum to rescue a small museum in North Yorkshire from closure, the Swaledale Museum in Reeth. This is combined with work as a freelance curator and lecturer, and as Senior Research Fellow at the University of Warwick where I contribute to two major projects, Trading Eurasia Europe's Asian Centuries 1600-1830 and the East India Company at Home 1757-1857.
It has been an exciting adventure to take on the task of curating this major exhibition at the Goldsmiths' Company, where I am a freeman. Drawing on my belief that past and present can be brought together via the stories objects tell, it has been a challenge to bring such a diverse range of gold together. The 500 objects in the exhibition centre on the Story of Britain and Gold that reaches across the globe.
In uniting objects that cross the boundaries of science and art, connecting geological specimens with Iron Age torcs, placing the most recent experiments with gold alloys with magnificent eighteenth-century gold tableware, it is possible to tell a story that begins over two hundred million years ago, and looks forward into the future via the work of our inspired young goldsmiths and artists practicing today. Despite this expanse of time we seem to connect with our Bronze Age ancestors in admiring and valuing this enigmatic metal.