Monday, December 30, 2013

History's Runway: The Cory Lilies of the Valley Spray, 1830-70

Bodice Ornament
The Victoria & Albert Museum 

This spray of diamonds is another perfect example of the mid Nineteenth Century sensibility for naturalistic jewelry. Such jewels often depicted floral arrangements, sometimes peppered with jeweled “insects.” This piece shows the trend of adding “tremblers”—jeweled pieces mounted on thin wires which moved as the wearer walked. Dense clusters of diamonds, like the bodice ornament we see here, were the height of fashion during this period.

This ornament, owned by Lady Cory, was made in Britain between 1830 and 1870 and features a plethora of brilliant-cut and European-cut diamonds mounted in silver and backed in gold. Of particular note is the sprig of lilies of the valley which surmounts the piece. Such sprays were designed to be worn on the bodice, either centrally or to one side at the shoulder.

By the Twentieth Century, these pieces were still fashionable, but many were broken apart to make other jewelry. So, it's quite exceptional when they survive unaltered. Not surprisingly, in the 1920s when densely set diamond pieces were once again in vogue, many of these remaining sprays found new popularity--worn on coats.

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