The National Gallery of Victoria is currently showing, as its major exhibition, Napoleon; Revolution to Empire. This is a must see for anybody with an interest in antique jewellery.

On display are a spectacular range of finely crafted snuff boxes, silver wear, imperial regalia and personal jewellery items from the height of the French Empire Period. This period was the epitome of French chic. The workmanship is unimaginably fine and the style lighter and more delicate than the Rocco period. The opulence of the period is truly mind boggling.

One of the breathtaking jewellery displays is a twelve piece, boxed suite of jewels, known as a paruré, featuring fine malachite and pearls. A paruré is a term used to describe a matching suite of jewellery comprised of a minimum of three jewellery items, a collier, a ring, and earrings, but can include an infinite number of corresponding items. Today if a lady were lucky enough to possess only one piece of a paruré such as this, I can imagine she would be over the moon.

The snuff boxes that were given away as mere gifts for visiting dignitaries are exquisite pieces of art. The detail in the workmanship and the gem content in these pieces make each one of these treasures priceless. As an antique jewellery expert, the most interesting objects on display are the reproduction imperial crown jewels of Empress Marie Louise. Though great care was taken in getting the overall design right, it is clear that the old setting techniques have been lost to time. These items only serve to highlight the exceptional nature of the true French Empire Period jewels.

-Ronnie Bauer