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The 1851 Great Exhibition inspired a series of ‘London International Exhibitions’ which took place in South Kensington in 1871, 1872, 1873 and 1874. Fine arts and scientific inventions and discoveries remained central display themes but each exhibition presented different aspects of manufacture. In 1872 one emphasis was on jewellery, including ‘peasant jewellery’. The Exhibition Commissioners arranged with the South Kensington Museum (later V&A) to make a collection of peasant jewellery from ‘all parts of the world, which should become public property, for exhibition in the Museum after the close of the Exhibition’. A letter was sent by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to British representatives overseas asking for their help in securing pieces of jewellery, particularly examples with ‘a direct connection with the native instinctive art, which has been handed down by a long tradition’. The outcome was considered to be ‘most satisfactory … a collection of characteristic ornaments never before equalled was obtained’.
This string of oval blue glass beads was obtained in Egypt. Egypt has a long tradition of glassmaking. In making beads, glass could be used to imitate semi-precious stones.
String of blue oval glass beads.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Length: 87.5 cm
Object history note
Acquired by the Exhibition Commissioners of the London International Exhibition of 1872 as an example of 'peasant jewellery' and then transferred to the South Kensington Museum.
Necklace of oval blue glass beads, Egypt
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington Museum, acquired during the year 1873, London: George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode
'Necklace. Blue glass oval beads. Egyptian … Bought (Annual International Exhibition, 1872), 12s'