Opulent gifts – jewellery on show at Parliament House

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“PEARLS and Protocol: gifts of jewellery” is the catchy title of a new exhibition at Parliament House.

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The show follows last year’s “Gestures of Goodwill” exhibition and highlights an eclectic selection of gifts presented to Australian Prime Ministers and their spouses in the course of official duties over the past 40 years, drawn from the collections of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Parliament House Art Collection.

Back in in 1978, the then Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, announced that all gifts received by ministers must be declared and valued. The recipient was given the opportunity to purchase the gift, but many were surrendered to the Commonwealth for safekeeping.

The exchange of jewellery as a symbol of prosperity and friendship is steeped in ceremonial tradition, staff say. Precious metals and stones were used in early diplomatic practices to cement alliances and inspire awe.

In more recent times, jewellery gifted by foreign or national representatives conveys respect and goodwill, perhaps signalling the beginning of a new relationship, the continuation of a longstanding friendship, or to celebrate events of international importance.

“Pearls and Protocol: gifts of jewellery”, Presiding Officers Exhibition Area, Level 1, Australian Parliament House, until February 28. All welcome.

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Helen Musa
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