Today’s post was written by Elinor Coleman
The Vintage Mirage staff, my husband and I visited the Hillwood Mansion Museum in Washington, DC to see the amazing exhibit of fine jewelry pieces owned by Marjorie Merriweather Hutton Post. She was considered an influential American woman and collector of precious gems, gem stones and fine jewelry, plus ceramics, ornamental objects, and decorative items. Jewelry pieces came from auctions of unique antique and noteworthy gems, as well as those she wore designed and commissioned from the famous jewelry houses of Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Harry Winston, Verdura, David Webb and others. The exhibition includes pieces worn from 1900 through 1960.
It could be said that Marjorie Post lived as royalty here in the USA.
The excitement and awe inspired sighs we felt came from viewing the authentic gems in sets which are called “parure”. A “parure” is a necklace, tiara, bracelet, earrings, pin and sometimes ring. It is very rare to view or wear a full set of jewelry these days, due to the high cost, concern for safety of the wearer, occasions to wear the items, and the fact that at this time, many parures or sets were broken up, sold off, given away or lost. What an amazing experience to view the parure, feel the excitement that indeed Marjorie Post was able to purchase and wear full sets of gemstone jewelry!
She had the funds available plus the occasions for wearing them. When we receive a set of jewelry to sell at Vintage Mirage, we get very excited about our costume copies of the similar designs, since there is a very old tradition to copy in costume jewelry elements the exact replicas of the fine jewelry. At this time in history, it is unusual to find a parure, meaning with all of the elements and pieces together.
Through viewing this jewelry collection, we could see clearly and concretely just how the royalty of the world set the jewelry trends and influenced all of the fine jewelry industry as well as the designers of costume jewelry. The general public aspired to wear ornamentation based upon the royalty, but it was the royalty which designated what the general public could wear or own, from historic times of conquered countries and the emergence of royalty, Pharaohs, and Maharajahs.
The Industrial Revolution, invention and colonialization changed this scene. Now working women and men demanded jewelry and accessories in order to dress the style set in the urban environment and with jobs and the invention of department stores, everyone had access to merchandise at varying prices in the current style. So it makes sense that with the information of patented closures and materials used in jewelry, American and European women and men requested and purchased costume jewelry which was affordable for their outfits. These ornaments also included buttons. Pearls for so long were only worn by royalty, thus faux pearls were made out of glass and resin and sold to working customers.
At the Hillwood Mansion with Marjorie Post as the hostess, as well as the additional five mansions, all dinners and dinner parties were very formal affairs with mandatory tuxedos for the men, evening gowns for the female guests, as well as the mandatory full livery outfits for the staff- all year round. So clearly there were frequent occasions for outfits which showed off the exquisite jewelry.
So I highly suggest a visit to Hillwood Mansion and the Jewelry Show. We all had a great inspiring and educational day! Then come to Vintage Mirage here in Old Town Alexandria and permit me and my staff to show you our versions of wonderful costume and semi-precious parure and demi parure jewelry! Our collection begins with the Victorian era (1860) through to the present day contemporary artisans from around the world!