This dazzling set of jewels is one of the oldest, intact parures still in use today.
Owned by the French, Swedish and now Danish Royal Family, this remarkable set features a Diamond and Ruby Tiara, a large ornate Necklace, adjustable earrings and several bejewelled hairpins.
The story of the Danish Ruby Parure begins at the Coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804.
Napoleon had sought recognition in the eyes of the other European Monarchies who viewed him as an upstart and a usurper. In order to achieve this, he appointed his most loyal generals to the new imperial aristocracy and gave them large sums of money to buy their wives suitably grand jewels for the occasion.
One of these generals was Jean Baptiste Bernadotte. Bernadotte was married to Napoleon’s former fiancee Désirée Clary and for the Coronation he bought her a suite of Rubies and Diamonds. The original set included an imposing necklace, large drop earrings, brooch, and several hairpins all in the style of branches with Diamond leaves and Ruby berries. In 1810 Bernadotte was elected Crown Prince of Sweden but Désirée did not enjoy life in Stockholm and fled back to Paris. She only returned when her son married the French Empress Josephine’s granddaughter, Josefina of Leuchtenberg.
The jewels stayed in Sweden until Josefina’s grand daughter Princess Louisa married Crown Prince Frederik VIII of Denmark in 1869.
As Rubies and Diamonds are the same colours as the Danish flag, Queen Josefina thought that the parure would make the perfect present for the new Danish Crown Princess.
The first person to be photographed wearing the parure was Queen Alexandrine, wife of Christian X (Queen Louisa’s eldest son).
For the picture, she arranged the hair pieces into a Bandeau style tiara, very popular in the 1920’s.
According to the current Danish queen, Margarethe II, her grandmother Alexandrine was a very shy person who did not like wearing her grand jewellery unless she had to.
Alexandrine’s son Frederick married Princess Ingrid of Sweden in 1935. Ingrid was a great-great-great-granddaughter of the parure’s original owner. Once the set was hers, she decided to modify it again by adding the smaller brooches to the headband in order to create a traditional tiara.
This set became her favourite and she was wore it so frequently that the jewels became known as ‘Queen Ingrid’s Rubies’.
When Queen Ingrid died in 2000, she left the parure to her grandson Frederick with the wish that the jewels would always remain with the heir or the monarch of Denmark. In 2004, Frederick married Mary Donaldson and at her pre wedding gala, she wore the Ruby parure for the first time.
In the documentary clip below, Crown Princess Mary speaks about how initially she did not feel like this set was hers to change, that it was on loan.
However over the years, as she has become more confident in her role, Crown Princess Mary has made many alterations to this set.
In 2010, she instructed the Danish Jeweller, Marianne Dulong, to restore and adapt the parure for her own use.
Crown Princess Mary initially had a lot difficulty with this piece because it was not fitted to her head and could only be worn flat. The tiara was disassembled and the frame was remade specifically for Mary’s head.
The jewellers then reset the silver diamond leaves and the gold ruby currant berries back onto the frame. Marianne Dulong and her craftsman were incredibly thorough, consulting botany books to make sure the arrangement of the leaves and berries were realistic.
Crown Princess Mary wanted the necklace to be more versatile, as it can be quite difficult to wear in its full form. Marianne Dulong and her team created new locking mechanisms that would allow the rosettes, pendants, and chains to be removed and reattached. This new setting allows Crown Princess Mary to wear the necklace as a single riviere, with one drop rosette or as a simple pendant & chain
The Hairpins and Ring
Lastly, three hair pins and a ring were added to the parure. When the restoration was complete, it was decided that some of the leftover Diamond and Ruby leaves could be converted into hair pins. These were designed by Mary’s hairdresser Søren Hedegaard. The ring is a new piece requested by Mary to match the bracelet. It took a week to create the ring using 18ct Yellow Gold, Diamonds, and a very large Ruby.
Crown Princess Mary continues to wear the Parure in all its various formations and will no doubt do so until she becomes Queen of Denmark, leaving the jewels for her successor.