Interchangeable jewelry is often hailed as ‘the next big thing’ in fashion jewelry, which is somewhat accurate, given the recent rise in its popularity. However, as a concept, the idea is not exactly a new one! Any antique jewelry collector can tell you that one of the most coveted items collectors seek is an antique parure. Famous during the Napoleonic era (1799-1815), parures are very much the original interchangeable jewelry.
What is a Parure?
A parure is, in the most basic sense of the word, a set of jewels and other ornaments that are designed to be worn together. However, there is so much more to parures than that! This was the very first take on interchangeable jewelry. Often, the cleverly designed pieces split into several parts, making them wearable in different ways. It was very common for necklaces to break into two or even three bracelets or for brooches to be wearable as hair ornaments. Another popular option was wearing the pendant drops on a stomacher as earrings. A full parure set presented a lady with a full suite of interchangeable jewelry used to create endless different looks.
Traditionally, a parure would include a minimum of a brooch, bracelet, ring, and earrings. However, more elaborate sets were available with tiaras, necklaces, diadems, and stomachers included as well. The most elaborate parures were usually reserved for royalty and could have up to 16 pieces of interchangeable jewelry, including items such as buttons and aigrettes.
The Origins of Parures
Parure comes from the French verb ‘parer’ which means ‘to adorn.’ These interchangeable jewelry sets first entered into fashion in the later part of the 17th century but very quickly went out of style in the 1700s, when jewelry trends were much more simplistic in their style. However, towards the end of the 18th century, Napoleon very much revived the trend, largely because of his love affair with all things jewelry. He was known for lavishing an abundance of sparkling gifts on his wives. He specially commissioned parures from some of the most well-known jewelers of the time, which brought them back into favor very quickly.
The Parure Revival
There was a short lived revival in the 1950s when fashion houses like Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels launched parures aimed at jewelry lovers, collectors, and starlets. The interchangeable jewelry designs were very popular with Elizabeth Taylor, who made one particular emerald and diamond parure by Bulgari her signature style.
Today, you can seldom see the traditional idea of a parure outside of a vintage collection of fashion jewelry. However, interchangeable jewelry is a modern take on the notion. Now, instead of having a complete set, you can purchase several companion pieces and snap on snap button jewels to create a new look. Those same snap buttons can be used on bracelets, necklaces, sunglasses and other fashion accessories. You get the same versatility that you would from a traditional parure, but with a modern twist and at a much more affordable price!
Blue Dress® Boutique is a fashion forward jewelry and accessories line showcasing interchangeable snap button jewelry that can be worn with our beautiful companion jewelry pieces including necklaces, bracelets, and other accessories.