As Donald Trump proves, gold attracts those drunk on power. But artists have shown it can point the way to the divine
Artists across history have woven astonishing and delightful designs from precious metals. The V&A's new galleries dedicated to the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection, which opened this week, display ornate silver cups from Renaissance Germany, gold snuffboxes whose contents titillated the noses of 18th-century aristocrats, and even a superb silver swan made by Asprey of London in 1985.
Yet gold and silver glimmer through human history as both dream and nightmare. As I admired a cup made in the shape of a falcon with gold, silver and gems wrapped round a coconut that forms its body, a lovely thing made in Ulm in 1600, I couldn't quite stop thinking of the image of Donald Trump meeting Nigel Farage in Trump's realm of gold. Has he ruined this material, considered beautiful by human beings since prehistoric times?