pass the parure

In 17th century Europe multiple matching items of jewellery were all the rage. A parure, as these collections were known, could include diadems, coronets, belts, bracelets, earrings, pendants, corsage studs, fasteners, necklaces and other accessories.

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Among the most intriguing jewels in the world are pieces formerly in the collection of the French Crown Jewels. Nearly all the jewels were sold during an auction the French government conducted in 1887. The ruby and diamond diadem was sold to a Mr. Hass and the matching bracelets were sold to Tiffany & Co. Within a year, these jewels were resold to Mr. Bradley-Martin of New York City, an original member of the “Four Hundred,” a term coined for New York City’s high society.

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The new owner became Cornelia Bradley-Martin, who played a colorful part in America’s social history during the 1890s when New York was in the midst of an economic panic. Thousands were unemployed and long bread lines formed on the streets. Cornelia Bradley-Martin was distressed over the misery she saw around her and suggested that an extravagant party might help to lift New York out of its slump. It not only would lift spirits, she thought, but also would employ out of-work florists, hair stylists and dressmakers.

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Guests were asked to dress “appropriately for the court of Versailles at the time of Louis XIV.” Newspapers around the world began to print detailed accounts of the preparations. The New York Times told readers how carloads of orchids and roses arrived to transform the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria into the Great Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

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The Bradley-Martins were costumed as Louis XV and Mary, Queen of Scots. She complemented her costume of black velvet and white lace with a stunning collection of jewels, including the pair of ruby and diamond bracelets dating from 1810 (which she wore joined together to form a dog collar), a large diamond brooch known as the Sevigne brooch dating from 1856, and the center plaque from the piece known as the great girdle set with diamonds, pearls and colored stones dating from 1864. On her right shoulder was a quatrefoil pendant set with rubies and diamonds.

Sevigne Brooch

In addition to the royal pieces, she wore an impressive diamond tiara, a necklace designed as a line of ruby and diamond clusters, a large diamond sunburst brooch, a belt set its entire length with large diamonds, and three additional diamond strands draped from her shoulder to her waist. She was a picture of extravagance.

“Waist and Extravagance”

Several ministers condemned the lavish display of wealth during a time of economic hardship. Soon the story of the ball erupted into a full-blown controversy. Collier’s magazine printed critical editorials and a political cartoon lampooning it. The New York City tax authorities doubled the Bradley-Martins’ tax assessment and, by the end of the year, the couple moved to England.

Their daughter, also named Cornelia, married the Fourth Earl of Craven and acquired the title Lady Craven at age 16. The Earl of Craven fell off his yacht and drowned at age 53 in 1921. His death was said to be an example of the curse on the Craven title (whereby all who inherit the title die young).

His body was found a day after his disappearance off the deck of the 63 ton yawl, Sylvia. In the police description of Lord Craven it was stated he was dressed in a dinner jacket, silk shirt and pearl cufflinks with his family crest tattooed on his breast. He was succeeded by his son, the one-legged Viscount Uffington.

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Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 7:58 am  Comments (36)  
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  1. At least Viscount Uffington will save money on shoes and socks …….

    • Don’t you have to dress a wooden leg?

      • A little preservative and a buff perhaps ….

  2. The famous brooch reminds me of Chloe Sevigne, the indie film actor/director from the film ‘Boys Don’t Cry’.

    Meanwhile, I love the word ‘parure’, not that I’m planning to ever own one.

    • Yes, it reminded me of Chloe Sevigny too. I like her in Big Love and she was great in Larry Clark’s Kids

  3. Luckily they just left the country versus getting guillotined in the end.

    • Hmmm…. I didn’t think the guillotine was America’s weapon of choice anyway.

  4. Thou shalt not worship any Craven images…

    • …except Priapus 😉

  5. I only learned the word parure quite recently while viewing some in the V&A, I’d like the one that model is modelling

    • Did you see the emerald parure that Napoleon gave his daughter?

  6. Cornelia….not a particularly flattering name for a child. It’s almost as bad as Nigella.

    • Stephen used to have a budgie called Cornelius 🙂

  7. I also want the outfit the model is wearing, minus the furs. It’s too hot for fur right now, I can’t even look at them without breaking into a sweat. It is 88 degrees and 85% humidity today. I had to put up pickles.

    • Right now I’d prefer the fur, Sydney in July is too cold for my liking

      • Well, it IS winter there. Actually, I think I want the model’s body even more than I want the parure. If I had the jewelry I’d just sell it so I’d have money to buy rocks and plants for my new garden project. That sleek tight belly makes me so jealous, although the fake boobs do not. Right now my belly looks like the craters of the moon because of the way the weight loss has affected it, and the fact that the skin has not shrunk back to pre-obese size yet.

        Let that be a warning to all you younger women! If you let yourself gain weight and then lose it, you will be appalled at how your skin fits after the evolution. Just. Don’t. Gain. Weight.

  8. I find that the belt is a highly underrated accessory. A good belt ties an outfit together on a woman. Plus you can use it to secure her to the headboard whatever bed you happen to find yourself in.

    • My bed doesn’t have a headboard…. how are you going to secure me?

      • Maybe he’ll let you use your imagination. . .just pretending you are secured can be really fun.

  9. The Craven Curse? Does Freddie Kreuger get them in their sleep?

    • haha…. I hadn’t made the connection before

  10. I like that coat of arms at the end

  11. Haha! I love how you ended this story with a reference to “the one-legged man”.

  12. Just a suggestion but I would absolutely love to see you in a variation of that first pose in an upcoming Corset Friday! You don’t have to use real stones or fur though. That part can be up to you…haha.

  13. Yeah, Kraven always has a hard time with Spiderman

  14. I had not heard the word parure before… live and learn!

  15. I’m glad we got to the bit about them being condemned and having their taxes doubled, my inner egalitarian couldn’t stomach all that stupid minded extravagance…(i’m such a part popper like that…)

  16. I can’t believe the French just sold them off – huge bummer for them.

  17. Craven Moorhead.

  18. In related news, the Brits have refused to return the Kohinoor diamond to India.

  19. The Earl of Craven was no doubt relieving himself over the deck rail. A remarkably high percentage of men who drown in boating mishaps are found with their flies unzipped, suggesting that they were passing some rough water at the same time that they were passing some other water.

  20. I wonder how all of this would play out if done today? The economy is not as bad as the depression era, but it’s really bad.

  21. If you’re middle-aged and long pearl necklaces should be preferred and if you are young, and shorter length necklaces should be chosen. the skin of young people should be highlighted by the neck, while the aging of the skin may be overshadowed by the pearl necklace long elegant.
    Cultured pearls are in vogue and are more durable and available in a wide variety. Cultured pearls are not false, are made by a natural process, but that are scientifically designed to enhance its attractiveness. The finesse and finishing beads are also carefully noted, however perfect it might be looking for a fake pearl.

  22. New word = parure.

  23. Imagine how quickly you would sink and drown when drenched with $999 billion worth of jewels! Maybe we need more extravagant parties over here to lift America out of its economic slump…or maybe that’s what caused it.

  24. wow… so beautiful…


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