Elizabeth I, Catherine The Great, Empress Joséphine… Beyoncé. We know that Ms Knowles-Carter has exquisite style and taste, and that’s just been confirmed by the V&A Museum. The London museum has acquired one of the singer, actor and activist’s most precious pieces of jewellery – soon be displayed alongside pieces owned by these spectacular women from history.
The museum has announced that the reigning voice (and thighs) of America has given them a “Papillon” butterfly ring designed by Glenn Spiro. The ring, said to be a present from husband Jay-Z, will be on display in the William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery, one of the most spectacular jewellery collections in the world.
The museum’s jewellery curator, Clare Phillips, said: “Beyoncé is a figure whose personal style the V&A is proud to represent and a gift from whose personal collection we are honoured to receive. The Papillon ring she has gifted is an exquisite example of contemporary jewellery design by one of Britain’s master jewellers.”
Jeweller Glenn Spiro left school at 15 and trained at Christie’s and Cartier. He discreetly worked under various celebrated brand names for 25 years, establishing himself as a 24-karat talent, before launching his own line, “G” – now based in Mayfair. Spiro is famous for his brilliant eye for gemstones and vibrant one-off designs which he used to stunning effect when creating the butterfly-shaped piece for Beyoncé in 2014.
“Papillon” features kinetic wings that flutter with the movement of the wearer’s hand, as if poised, ready for flight. Its blue titanium wings are encrusted with 326 green tsavorites (a gem discovered in 1967 and said to be 1,000 times rarer than emeralds), and edged with 342 cut diamonds.
“I do love butterflies” Beyoncé told Vogue. “But the Papillon was something special”. According to Dazed, the ring is valued at around $95,000 but its heritage and story means it would probably sell for more.
Jewellery’s obsession with butterflies is age old. The oldest known lepidopteran piece is a Hellenistic necklace dating back to the 2nd century BC, and now on display at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, USA. The gem-set butterfly was popular in Victorian times, the patterned wings the ideal canvas for talented jewellers to show off their intricate skills. They were also popular during the art nouveau period, a time when the natural world inspired artisans worldwide.
The butterfly’s near-miraculous ability to change its form completely in a short space of time means that it is often associated with transformation, renewal, rebirth and resurrection. The winged insects are also symbols of love, spirituality and the soul – the Greek word for butterfly is psyche, after the goddess Psyche, the goddess of the Soul and wife of Eros. The ancient Greeks depicted the soul (psyche) as a butterfly, and in Christian art Jesus was often shown holding a butterfly on carvings and tombs.
Its grace, beauty and ability to transform make the butterfly the perfect representation of Beyoncé, an icon of the 21st century. Flutter on by to the V&A to see one of the most beautiful contemporary pieces of cultural history and perhaps even absorb a little of Beyoncé’s magic.