What is a "Parure"

29/12/2016 29 0 0

What is a "Parure"?

The term "parure" refers to set of jewellery, and to be a true parure the set must consist of three matching items.  A set with only a necklace, plus earrings, a brooch or a bracelet is not generally considered a parure, but is called a demi-parure.

Complete Suites of Jewellery

The word "parure" comes from the Old French verb for “to adorn,” . Originally a parure referred to a complete wardrobe or suite of jewellery, generally designed to be worn all at once. The idea has its origins in the flamboyance of the Rococo and Baroque era in France, when aristocratic men and women adorned themselves with elaborate ornamentation, makeup and high wigs.

By the middle of the 17th century, jewellery became less about individual works of art intended to convey personal meaning, and became more about decoration, designed to convey one’s wealth and status. Ladies fashion featured plunging necklines and uplifted bosoms, featuring décolletage which required to be decorated with fabulous jewels. Although the French Revolution was a reaction to the decadence of the royal family, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte  enjoyed giving his wife Josephine beautiful jewellery parures.

Wardrobes - complete jewellery sets

These wardrobes could comprise a necklace, tiara, comb,  diadem, bandeau, pair of bracelets,rings, pins, cluster stud or chandlier earrings, brooch, belt claso and aigrette (a head dress). Early on  the only uniting feature in a parure was the use of one or two particlular types of stone. However, by the 19th century, exact motifs were replicated in every item of the parure. 

Emergence of  paste glass parures featuring jewelled necklaces, tiaras,   brooches, and bracelets

More  affordable and pretty paste glass featured in the 18th and 19th centuries as a substitute for rare gemstones, and allowed the emergence of  the first costume jewellery. This was more accessible to the middle classes than the real thing. During the Victorian era, it was usual for a groom to give his bride a “corbeille de mariage,” or a casket containing some part of the parure that her social engagements would require. This might contain a jewelled necklace, tiara, bandeau ,armlets,  brooches, bracelets and shoe knots.

Weiss costume parure - necklace and earrings set

Daytime Parures

The proper Victorian lady would also have a more demure set of jewellery for daytime,  usually made of simple gold. Generally hese types of parure would only consist of matching  earrings, brooches and a pair of bracelet. This was considered a respectable amount of jewellery to wear in day time. The daytime set might also include practical items like fine gold chains for holding  eyeglasses, fams or  a châtelaine. This which was worn hanging from the waistband of a dress and was designed to hold useful objects like a notebook, watch, scissors, pencil or a small container of perfume known as a vinaigrette.

Valuable Antique Parure Cases

An antique parure still in its case is worth twice as much as a parure without one. The parure cases are often as elaborate and opulent as the jewellery they contained. It’s extremely unusual to find a good condition parure from the 18th century, while those from the19th-century sets are a little  more common. As costume jewellery increased in popularity in the 20th century, so did smalller parures and demi-parures, which is why these particular vintage sets are easier to acquire.