The Norwegian Emerald Parure
Article by: Joseph Denaburg
The Norwegian Emerald Parure is one of the most beautiful and storied pieces of jewelry to have ever stood the test of time. The word parure is a French word that means “adornment”; this usually is used to refer to a set of 3 matching pieces of jewelry. The Norwegian Emerald Parure was originally a tiara, a necklace and a brooch, but two emeralds were removed from the necklace to craft a pair of earrings. The parure now consists of four breathtaking diamond and emerald pieces: the tiara, a necklace, earrings, and a brooch. The parure is the creation of Marie Etienne Nitot and his son Francois Regnault, the appointed court jewelers for Napoleon.
The first owner of the Norwegian Emerald Parure was Empress Josephine, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. They divorced in 1810 because she could not bear him a son to succeed him. Josephine kept all of her jewelry, and Napoleon continued to support her financially.
Josephine died a few weeks after Napoleon’s exile to Elba in 1814. After he was defeated at Waterloo in 1815, he refused to leave France before he visited Josephine’s grave. While preparing his body for burial, Napoleon’s followers were shocked to find that he wore a locket with violets plucked from Josephine’s grave.
When Josephine, died she willed the parure to her son by a previous marriage, Eugene de Beauharnais, who bestowed it on his wife, Princess Augusta Amelia. She in turn gave it to her daughter Amelia of Leuchenternberg who married Emperor Pedro I of Brazil and bequeathed all her jewelry to her sister Josephine, the Queen of Norway and Sweden. It has remained in the Norwegian royal family ever since.
The pleasingly symmetrical tiara has a square cabochon-cut emerald surrounded by diamonds crowning its midline. Below it is a smaller pear-shaped cabochon-cut emerald that emphasizes its sparkling beauty. The tiara’s design includes palmettes, rosettes, and s-shaped designs in diamonds, interspersed with emeralds that are oval, tear shaped, and round. It is a lovely example of neo-classical design.
The necklace is composed of rosettes, each oval emerald surrounded by brilliant-cut diamonds. The centerpiece of the necklace is a cushion-shaped emerald that has a single pendant hanging from it; the hanging emerald is surrounded by round brilliant-cut emeralds. The brooch is a collection of emeralds that are each surrounded by diamonds.
The parure is now worn by Queen Sonja, wife of King Harald of Norway. In their youth, after first falling in love, they were forced to date secretly for nine years until they petitioned Harald’s father for permission to marry. Since Sonja was a commoner, it was not acceptable for them to marry; their betrothal sparked a lively controversy. When King Olav V finally got the approval of parliament and gave them his blessing, they were married in 1968. Sonja is the 9th owner of the parure, a stunning creation whose history is as tragic as it is romantic.