On June 8 in New York, Christie’s will offer a complete parure of antique amethyst jewelry as part of one of their Magnificent Jewels auctions. Here’s a closer look at the set, which is fit for a Georgian aristocrat—or, perhaps, for a devoted fan of the Bridgerton series?
The seven-piece parure dates to the 1830s. The pieces, which all feature oval-cut amethysts set in floral designs made of four shades of gold (yellow, rose, white and blackened) and silver, are being sold together as a single lot in the auction. The set includes a tiara (or comb), a necklace, a pair of earrings, three brooches, and a bracelet. Along with the jewels, a fitted case is also being offered as part of the lot. The set features semi-precious amethysts and no diamonds, perhaps making it originally a more affordable alternative to a grander suite of jewels. The trend of making these less expensive sets lasted through the 1830s and 1840s, allowing aristocrats and other upper-class women to participate in popular royal jewelry trends without spending royal dollars.
The jewels are certainly typical examples of the designs that were popular during the first third of the nineteenth century. We’ve discussed several similar sets with royal links, including the Swedish Malachite Parure and the Cotes Peridot Suite. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York also has a similar amethyst parure in its collection. That parure was made in France; no information about the maker of today’s parure was shared by Christie’s.
The first piece from today’s amethyst parure is this head ornament, featuring two rows of amethysts set in a floral design. The auction notes from Christie’s refer to the piece as a tiara, but I think it’s more correct to call it a hair comb, given the actual comb section affixed to the base of the jewel. (These combs are sometimes detachable; I don’t know whether this one is.)
The model shots from Christie’s depict the comb being worn on top of the head like a traditional tiara, but all of the model images are digital composites, not real pictures of the jewels being worn. I suspect that this ornament would need to be worn at the back of the head like a true Regency-era comb. For a visual on how that would look, see the portrait of Pauline Bonaparte (sister of Napoleon) above. In the painting, Pauline wears a cameo comb at the back of her head, with a separate cameo bandeau placed low across her brow (a style that was called, in honor of her sister-in-law, à la Joséphine.) It’s always possible, but not certain, that the amethyst suite also included an additional diadem when it was made. Though combs and tiaras were often worn together, they were also worn separately.
The grand necklace from the amethyst suite features oval amethysts set in gold floral clusters, with additional golden floral spacer elements placed between each cluster.
The earrings from the set are pendants, fitting with the prevailing style of the first part of the nineteenth century. Each earring features a pair of amethyst clusters.
Here are two more interesting views of the earrings, showing the back and side views.
The set features two nearly identical amethyst cluster brooches. Here’s the first one…
… and here’s the second.
The set also includes a third brooch. This one features a large oval amethyst set in a floral cluster, from which a smaller amethyst and gold cluster is suspended as a pendant.
And finally, the set includes a golden floral bracelet set with three amethyst and gold clusters. Each cluster is separated by an elaborate gold floral spacer section.