|Sapphire parure of Queen Marie-Amélie of France, on display at the Louvre |
Jewelry 101: Parure
Another day, another new feature unveiled here at The Court Jeweller. This is the first post in a series that explores the terminology used to describe the royal jewels we've been happily gazing at here so far. Our first jewelry term is one that I've received many requests about: the parure.
Like lots of the words used to refer to various aspects of jewelry, the word parure is a French term. It's a word that doesn't really have an English equivalent; it refers to a matched set of pieces of jewelry that are intended to be worn together. The word comes from the French verb parer, which appropriately means "to adorn."
|Empress Joséphine |
Jewelers have been producing parures for centuries. The sets gained popularity in France with the ancien régime during the seventeenth century. These parures would have greatly resembled the sets that we see today; they included brooches, necklaces, rings, and earrings, but some of the later eighteenth-century parures also featured additional ornaments like shoulder brooches, shoe buckles, and even jeweled sword hilts . But these early parures didn't include one of the pieces we're accustomed to seeing in more modern examples -- there were no tiaras in the sets.
|Silvia of Sweden |
Several royal collections include impressive full parures. The Leuchtenberg sapphire parure, owned today by the Swedish royal family, was constructed as a full parure by Nitot (see photograph at right). It originally consisted of a tiara, a necklace, a brooch, a pair of earrings, and a set of four hairpins. (The original earrings were separated from the rest of the parure at some point; later, two of the hairpins were converted into a replacement pair.) The Danish royal family possesses a ruby parure that also dates to the Napoleonic era. This particular parure was made for Napoleon's fiancée, Désirée Clary (who later became queen of Sweden). Pieces of the set were worn by Désirée at Napoleon and Joséphine's coronation; today, the ruby set is worn by Crown Princess Mary. (The tiara from this parure was not a part of Désirée's original set; her parure included a set of hair ornaments that were later adapted into the tiara, which has been altered several times.)
|Queen Elizabeth II |
Matched sets of jewelry that include fewer pieces are generally called demi-parures. Precisely how many pieces a set must have to be a demi rather than a full parure varies according to different sources. Some say a demi-parure only includes two matched pieces, but I've seen the term used more frequently when describing parures that lack a tiara. One of the most notable demi-parures currently in royal hands is the amethyst demi-parure owned by Elizabeth II. The amethysts originally belonged to Queen Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent. The set consists of a necklace, three brooches, a set of hair combs, and a pair of earrings. As you can see, this set would fit into the latter categorization of "demi-parure" -- it has plenty of matched pieces to qualify it for full parure status, but it doesn't have a tiara, and so it is apparently downgraded. Another significant royal demi-parure can be found in Sweden: the family's pink topaz set (again, this set includes several major pieces but lacks a tiara).
|Margrethe II of Denmark |
It's much more unusual to see major parures worn outside of royal circles today. The official state duties that royal women attend offer them a rare chance to wear these full sets of matched jewels. You'll see full parures in various forms at state banquets, royal weddings, and other white-tie occasions. Which royal parure is your favorite set?
NOTES, PHOTO CREDITS, AND LINKS
1. Detail of photograph available via Wikimedia Commons; source here.
2. See the Encyclopedia Britannica entry for more.3. Detail of François Gérard's Joséphine en Costume de Sacre, available via Wikimedia Commons; original here.
4. Detail of photograph available via Wikimedia Commons; source here.
5. Detail of photograph available via Wikimedia Commons; source here.
6. See Trond Norén Isaksen's blog for more.
7. Photograph available via Wikimedia Commons; source here.