Category Archives: Historical

Picture Perfect Parure

On picture day in second grade, I snuck in some of my favorite jewelry to wear for my school portrait. I was immortalized wearing a necklace, a brooch, and a pair of earrings that I certainly didn’t leave the house wearing that morning. It was pretty surprising for my family to receive the packet of photos documenting me in all my bejeweled glory.

Even at eight years old, I had a desire to be photographed in my favorite jewelry. I thought the jewelry was beautiful, and therefore I would be beautiful. Despite the fact that none of the jewelry matched, it was a parure that made me feel so special, I don’t think I ever took a school portrait that was a memorable since then.

I like to look at pictures of other women wearing their jewelry. I hunt through books at the library, and scan the internet for images of women displaying their collection of jewels. For a while now, I’ve been collecting portraits of ladies decked out in full regalia, wearing a menagerie of diamonds, pearls, and other precious bobbles. There is something about the way that these women look, the expressions on their face, that reflects how the jewelry makes them feel on the inside. As if the weight of the adornment actually lightens their mood and their raises their spirits. Like a child playing dress-up.

Here is a sampling of some particularly nice images below. I concentrated on women wearing pearls for this selection. Unfortunately, I don’t have names for all of the ladies.


Above: Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

above: Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna

I spent the afternoon at the RISD library recently, doing a little bit of research on French 18th century jewelry. It was a wonderful way to spend a rainy day: piles of books and a scanner. I was rewarded when I came across this image from the Victoria and Albert Museum, it shows a fashion plate of hair styles from a Parish shop in 1776. I really like how the hair transforms into an ornate system of adornment. Braids become strands of pearls speckled with gems and bows stacked precariously upon their head like a crown. Stunningly precarious.

Auction Bling

I just came across a slide show from the New York Times Online featuring jewelry and jewels that have recently sold at auction.  Basically, it’s a gratuitous menagerie of baubles.  Surprisingly, many of the items were auctioned off at three to for times their anticipated value.  

My favorite item in the slide show is this Cartier art-deco travel clock made of deep green jade.  The face and handle are gold highlighted with black enamel.  I’d probably stop hitting the snooze button for an hour straight, if I was being woken up by a $14,000 clock!