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The Napoleonic Heritage
By Bjarne Steen Jensen
European Royal History Journal © 2000


Under Napoleon's rule a revolution in the way of making
jewellery took place. The fashion for ladies of the French
Empire dictated all pieces of jewellery worn on any given
occasion to be made in the same style and with matching
coloured stones so that the pieces formed an ensemble,
a parure.

Previously, in most of the eighteenth century, two
characteristics of fashionable jewellery were:

- a preference for diamonds,
thus the absence of coloured stones

- the absence of a tiara

Mastery of the brilliant cut having been achieved during
the first half of the 18th Century led to the apotheosis
of the diamond in royal jewellery. Large stones singularly
set were very popular but often those brilliants were of
poor shape as the size of the stone was more important
than the quality. The garnitures were made in gold with
the diamonds set in silver so that they didn't give off
a yellow tinge. The ladies wore aigrettes in their often
false hair as embellishment or to fasten the wigs.
Earrings were very large with one or three pendants.
Necklaces were not used but rows of diamonds were
sewn on the dresses. Multiple brooches were placed
on the bodice and the most popular being a bunch of
flowers in diamonds. This large piece was placed on
the one shoulder with the largest aigrette asymmetrically
poised on the other side of the head.


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