[Video] Journey Into Crystal

How much do you know about rock crystal? The "Journey into Crystal" exhibition currently presented at the Musée de Cluny - Musée National du Moyen Âge, where this conference will be filmed, is an incredible opportunity to discover this fascinating, transparent material.

Journey into Crystal

Found as far back as 5,000 BC, notably in the form of pearls, rock crystal is the most widespread variety of quartz (hyaline quartz). Its name comes from the Greek word "krustallos" meaning "ice", which has long been attributed to a divine creation, and has contributed to enriching the collective imagination.

The mineral has played an important role in the history of jewelry, from Mesopotamian pieces, including a necklace dating from the 4th millennium BC that was discovered in Tello within present-day Iraq, to lavish rings with female heads from the Roman era. The medieval period also produced a wealth of power instruments and religious and liturgical silverware, such as reliquary caskets, monstrances and shrine caskets made in Limoges in the 12th century. While rock crystal tableware was very popular in the West during the Middle Ages, it also made its appearance in Italy and Asia in the 16th century.

Celebrated by George Sand (1804-1876) in her novel Laura: A Journey into the Crystal (1864), the translucent material keeps inspiring endless artists, from photographers like Brassaï (1899-1984), to sculptors like Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) and multidisciplinary artists like Patrick Neu (born 1963), who took on the challenge of engraving Danse macabre on rock crystal for the exhibition.

Nestled in the heart of Paris, the Musée de Cluny is the only national museum in France devoted to the Middle Ages. Set against a backdrop of Gallo-Roman baths, the Hôtel des Abbés de Cluny is the perfect setting for the 24,000 remarkable works in its collections, including the six tapestries of the Young Woman with Unicorn.

Isabelle Bardiès-Fronty, General Curator of Heritage at the Musée de Cluny - Musée National du Moyen Âge, Marie-Laure Cassius-Duranton, Gemologist, Art Historian and Lecturer at L’ÉCOLE, School of Jewelry Arts.

Photo: Reliquary chest. Circa 1200, Northern France (?). Cut rock crystal
Paris, Musée de Cluny - Musée national du Moyen Âge
(c) RMN-Grand Palais (Musée de Cluny - musée national du Moyen Âge) / Michel Urtado