Parure is a French word that describes a set of matching jewelry, often worn together as a suite of jewelry. Most often a necklace, earrings and bracelet, the magnificent parure of the crown jewels of nations and museums can include rings, brooches or even tiara.
The British Museum has several parure in its collection. One consists of a tiara, necklace, earrings, brooch and bracelet. This magnificent suite of jewelry is made from gold and carved conch shell and carved with marine motifs incorporating sea-horses, dolphins, mermaids and scallop shells. The museum curator’s notes call it a tour-de-force.
The Metropolitan Museum in New York City owns a mid-19th century Italian parure of Onyx and gold, tortoiseshell cameo that also includes tiara along with a necklace, and brooch.
The Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, a design museum, also has jewelry pieces in its collection. The Cooper-Hewitt parure we are looking at is 19th century, made of seed pearls, mother-of-pearl, gold, and fiber. It includes a seed pearl necklace, brooch, hair ornament, bracelet, and earrings. The design features sunburst and floral ornaments within seed pearl strands, loops and foliate forms with gold clasps on the necklace and bracelet. It is cased, as are many parure, this with a circular red leather case designed specifically for the group.
Parure were created not only for royalty, but in this case, certainly was! In the Louvre collection, it is believed to be originally created for Empress Josephine, and later gifted to a succession of queens and royalty including, first, Queen Hortense, and afterwards to Queen Marie-Amélie, and Isabelle of Orleans, Duchesse of Guise. It even appears in a portrait of Marie-Amélie by Louis Hersent. The set consists of a diadem, a necklace, a pair of earrings and two small and one large brooch. All are set with Ceylon sapphires. The sapphires are ringed with diamonds set in gold.
Its maker is unknown.
Modern parure are still made, though much more wearable in less formal occasions. This modern parure was made for a client who wears it often to charity events.