What is a Parure?

Are you unsure what a Parure is? If you are, you’re not alone! I’ll explain it all in this blog! I’ll even show you some examples!

A Parure, quite simply, is a French word for a matching set of jewelry. Usually, a parure could contain as few as three matching pieces (a necklace, earrings, and a bracelet or brooch-or some combination thereof) or as many as seven matching pieces (a necklace, two earrings, a brooch, two matching bracelets* and a diadem or tiara).

*Bracelets were worn in matching pairs- one on each wrist. Often, bracelets could be clasped together to form a wearable choker necklace, making the pieces interchangeable. Interchangeability was an important component of a parure.

Parures became popular in the 17th Century Europe, rising in popularity in the 18th century. Napoleon is known for giving parures to both Josephine and Marie-Louise. A famous parure of sapphires and diamonds that Napoleon gave to Josephine is in the Louvre.

More recently, the term demi-parure has been popularized in vintage costume jewelry circles to include a necklace with matching earrings.

To more fully understand the term Parure and why they were important to women of yesteryear, let’s take a look at this garnet parure from Lenore Dailey that I photographed at the Original Miami Beach Antique Show.

It contains four pieces; the necklace, the earrings and the matching brooch/pendant.

The great thing about this set is that all the links of the necklace are slightly different from one another.

It fits the “interchangeable” aspect of parures because the pendant can be attached to the center portion of the necklace; worn as a pendant on a chain; or worn as a brooch.

The thing with parures that’s important to keep in mind is that women didn’t have as much jewelry as we have now. All these sets were a mainstay of a lady’s wardrobe. They were meant to be worn together for formal occasions or in separate pieces. They could also be worn in as many combinations as the pieces would allow. In other words, one parure could be a complete jewelry wardrobe!

Fun with Math:

How many different ways can the pieces in this parure be worn? Obviously, you can wear all the pieces at once (I’m counting the pendant/brooch as two pieces since it can be worn either way); You can wear the necklace with the attached pendant; you can wear the necklace and the earrings only; you can wear the brooch only; you can wear the pendant on a chain… you get the idea.

There are actually 41 different ways that all these pieces can be worn! Pretty cool, right? Do you see what I mean when I said that these parures could be a lady’s complete jewelry wardrobe?

 

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2 Comments


  1. I only have a smaller, three piece parure of jewelry. Nothing like these!
    I pulled a set of silver Ernst Dragsted jewelry out of the scrap bin at work and paid the store owner a whopping $5 for it. He considered it old junk only suitable for sending to the refiner. I have it proudly displayed in a shadow box on my wall.
    As far as I can tell, it is the only full parure of this set still together.

    Reply

    1. I love those kinds of stories. I’ve gotten many things out of the scrap bin myself so I appreciate your excitement! Good eye!

      Reply

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