"I do love butterflies", Grammy award-winning superstar Beyoncé tells me, "but the Papillon was something special". Today her dazzling Papillon will be unveiled as a permanent exhibit at the V&A Museum, donated it as a gift from her private collection, to the William & Judith Bollinger Gallery. The ring’s glittery green mosaic-style wings, created by London jeweller Glenn Spiro using 326 tsavorites, and not surprisingly, 342 brilliant-cut diamonds, "Yes, diamond’s are always a girl’s best friend," says Beyoncé, who spends time looking for distinctive jewels because, "they remind me of a special moment".
"She and Jay-Z buy beautiful things", explains Spiro, "Not just jewellery but also art; they are collectors." The three friends were hanging out together in Los Angeles, in a suite at the Peninsular Hotel, when the subject of the V&A seeking exciting examples of contemporary jewellery cropped up. "She immediately said she’d like to donate the jewel," he says.
When he was originally imagining the design in his West End atelier (once the showroom of couturier Norman Hartnell) he fashioned the stones flat. It wasn’t until he developed a titanium spring, wrapped like a diamond-set antennae over the knuckle, that the butterfly’s wings took flight and were able to flutter in time with Beyoncé’s finger.
"This titanium setting couldn’t have been done until recently and it’s so incredibly delicate," says Richard Edgcumbe, Senior Curator of the V&A Museum, as he turns the butterfly over in his gloved hands. "Of course it's close in spirit to the quivering en tremblant jewels of the 19th-Century which also needed human agency to make the diamonds quiver and come to life. Beyoncé is a role model in so many ways that having her personal jewel will be transforming to the gallery," Edgcumbe adjusts his tie, "to be honest we’re all quite star struck at the thought of it".