Many pieces of antique jewellery were designed as sets of matching jewellery, often beautifully laid out in specially designed presentation boxes. A complete set of this jewellery was described as being a ‘parure’. A parure normally comprised at least six or seven matching pieces. A full parure would comprise a necklace, earrings, ring, brooc, tiara and one or two bracelets. Smaller sets of matching jewellery were described as being a ‘demi-parure’, literally half a parure. Demi-parures generally comprise three or two pieces of matching jewellery.
I don’t possess any parures but am lucky enough to have some demi-parures to discuss. The first is a beautiful suite comprising a Victorian pendant and earrings. The central stone in each is a cabochon almandine garnet. Each piece is topped by a diamond set bow and each garnet has an inset diamond set star with a central diamond. Under each cabochon is a diamond set drop. The diamonds are set in silver and the backs of each piece are gold.
The next demi parure comprises a black opal necklet drop, earrings and ring. The suite is Australian made, from around 1910, and contains Australian cabochon black opals showing lovely green and blue play of colour, particularly the three cabochons in the pendant drop. The pieces are set in 15ct gold and platinum.
Finally, a different style of jewellery altogether. Below is a lava cameo boxed set comprising a large lava cameo brooch and a pair of drop earrings with two lava cameos each. The cameos are of Greek female heads The cameos are set in silver and are still in their original box which is always good.
In the Georgian and Victorian periods, wealthy people undertook tours of Italy, Egypt and Greece in particular to admire Roman ruins and Renaissance architecture. They tried to purchase souvenirs from each place they visited.
Pompeii was a popular destination for these wealthy tourists and jewelry was sold that was supposed to contain lava from Mount Vesuvius. The lava came in muted brown, grey, greens, ochre and cream, and skilful artists carved and polished beautiful cameos which were turned into bracelets, brooches, pendants, earrings and necklaces. The carvings were usually of classical heads or great Italian artists or writers.