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The Napoleonic Heritage

Adopted after an article written for the European Royal History Journal in 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:

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. That did not matter because nobody came near to the absolute monarchs so nobody saw the diamonds close. 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.