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A parure is a set of various items of matching jewelry, which rose to popularity in 17th-century Europe.
Beyond various items of matching jewelry, a parure is an entire wardrobe, or suite, of matching jewelry. Reserved for royalty and the wealthier classes, no woman was considered socially acceptable without a complete wardrobe of jewelry that defined her status, strength and political power. A matching suite of coordinating pieces could include a necklace, a comb, a tiara, a diadem, a bandeau, a pair of bracelets, pins, rings, drop earrings or cluster stud earrings, brooch and a belt clasp that might be worn over a fine dress. Napoleon was fond of lavishing these gem suites on his beloved first wife, Joséphine, to wear at state functions. Later, he gave similar sets to his second wife, Marie-Louise.
Cleverly, the parure was not static but modular and could be remade into more fashionable jewelry in order to stay au courant in the court and fashion-forward for the times. Members of court and higher social ranks vied for the best jewelers to create the most imaginative and elaborate collections that would astound one another and increase their status. Some necklaces could be worn intact or temporarily disassembled into bracelets, pendants, hair ornaments or brooches with smart interchangeable components and locking systems. From Old French, parure means adornment, from the verb parer, to adorn.
The artisans under Louis XIV were credited with some of the first parure inventions in the 18th century. Diamonds, often paired with silver, were popular at that time. The standout example was created for Mademoiselle d’Aubigné’s wedding, which included: earrings, two pendants, loops and clasps for the sleeves, 32 buttons, and a large bowknot.
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