Pearls are a worldwide phenomenon going back millennia. Fascination for these jewels of the seas and rivers transcends time and borders. Natural pearls have always been objects of desire due to their rarity and lustrous beauty. Myths and legends have always surrounded them, chiefly to explain the mystery of their formation. Read more.
In the news
With the government waging its ‘culture war’, the independence of national museums is at stake, write Chris Smith and Margot Finn
Stolen objects include the rosary that Mary, Queen of Scots took to her execution
The Syrian-born, US-based artist talks to Gabrielle Schwarz about his sculptural dioramas of cities ravaged by war – and offers a message of hope for the future