Ultimate Jewelry: You Gotta Hand It to Netflix Series The Crown

They had me at the opening credits. Watching a crown appear to grow into shape in the first frames of the Netflix series The Crown was like watching time-lapse photography of crystallizing gold. It left me spellbound at every episode. I love British costume dramas and revel at a peek into those big houses and wonderful gardens, at their exquisite furnishings, clothing, and jewelry. Make it Buckingham Palace, and that’s even better. When I learned about the exhibit “Costuming The Crown,” of course I had to see that, too.

ABOVE: Detail of the St. Edwards crown replica used in the Coronation scene of the Netflix Original production The Crown; photo courtesy Winterthur

Netflix first offered this fictionalized historical drama focusing on the reign of Queen Elizabeth II three years ago. If you haven’t watched the first two seasons, hurry up, because season three just started. And if you can go and haven’t been to the exhibit at Winterthur, the du Pont estate in northern Delaware, hurry up again. The show runs only through January 5, 2020, and is a treat you wouldn’t want to miss.

Costuming the Characters

The Crown at Winterthur royal jewelry

“Costuming The Crown” opens with a projected image that fades between the Coronation regalia and a quote about the event, both from the series; image © Alex Bailey/Netflix, Inc.; photo: courtesy Winterthur

Walk into the exhibit and you are stunned to see looking back at you a larger-than-life-size image of actress Claire Foy portraying Elizabeth at her 1953 Coronation, symbols of state in her hands, the St. Edwards Crown loomingly perched on her head. The young Queen’s face appears solemn and a touch startled, introducing in a single look the exhibition’s intertwined themes of Establishing Roles, Dressing the Part, and Creating Character.

The replica St. Edwards Crown; photo: courtesy Winterthur

The replica St. Edwards Crown; photo: courtesy Winterthur

The scene certainly is not, but the concept is easy for the rest of us to relate to. Act the part until it’s no longer acting, and take advantage of every prop that helps you get there. It may be fun, fashion, and available to anyone today, but jewelry is firmly rooted in announcing the wearer’s place in society — high place, that is. This crown leaves you in no doubt about that: today as for centuries, a crown is the ultimate status symbol.

gold coronation robe Winterthur

Hand-painted polyester and silk replicas of the Queen’s Coronation robes include the Imperial Mantle, embroidered with symbols of England (rose), Scotland (thistle), Northern Ireland (shamrock), and sovereignty (imperial eagle and fleur-de-lis). The Supertunica and Royal Stole, based on priestly vestments, indicate divine right to rule and head of the Church of England. The originals are made of silk with real gold thread; photo: courtesy Winterthur

Clothing makes a similar statement. Each layer she wears in that projected image declares who the Queen is. The image is also flanked by the series’ royal robe replicas. On the left is the costume version of the robe worn by Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Elizabeth, at her Coronation. On the right, her replicated gleaming golden Coronation robes.

Who Doesn’t Love Tiaras?

tiaras

Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik tiara replica, left; the original was bequeathed to Queen Elizabeth in 1953. Right: replicated Cambridge Lover’s Knot tiara, worn in the film by Princess Margaret; the original belonged to Queen Mary, who bequeathed it to Queen Elizabeth. Photo: M. White

I’m sure there are some who do not, but I adore tiaras for their unabashed showiness without, for the most part, being gaudy. As they are so elegant, light, and sparkly, I can’t help but look at them and feel the same. I imagine a (perfectly coiffed, perfectly dressed, much younger) self gracefully descending a magnificent staircase before a glittering ballroom filled with (not quite as) elegantly costumed guests. The tiaras on display, made with glass gems and base metals, as are all the jewelry replicas, do not disappoint. The mood is set, and I am gladly swept into it.

A Diadem Is a Crown

"Replica

A diadem is actually a type of crown, and unlike tiaras or coronets, represents sovereignty. Over the years I have frequently learned and then forgotten just what the definitions are for the more aristocratic ornaments. Happily, you can learn or relearn a lot of noble what’s what by viewing the set pieces and reading the concise descriptions placed nearby.

What to Wear with the Jewelry

Sketches of some costumes are also included in the exhibit; photo: M. White

Sketches of some costumes are also included in the exhibit; photo: M. White

Throughout the multimedia exhibit, the robes, gowns, uniforms, dresses, shoes, crowns, tiaras, medals, sketches, and more appear before, on, and in specially built backdrops, platforms, supports, and cases with attendant images and text. The video clips and unobtrusive yet understandable audio from the soundtrack that help usher you along lend both ambiance and information to the experience.

Queen Elizabeth II wedding dress

The series’ version of Elizabeth’s wedding dress; photo: courtesy Winterthur

 

Detail of Elizabeth’s wedding dress train; photo: M. White

Detail of Elizabeth’s wedding dress train; photo: M. White

Among the more elaborate items on display is the beaded replica of then Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress, a tour de force that took six embroiderers seven weeks, working ten-hour days, to complete. The original was made with pearls.

Gown, Order of the Garter insignia and family orders pinned to sash, and Russian style necklace replicas; photo: M. White

Gown, Order of the Garter insignia and family orders pinned to sash, and Russian style necklace replicas; photo: M. White

A less elaborate, only partially beaded gown from the set is also the backdrop for jewels pinned to a blue sash. The fringe necklace shown with it is modeled after one presented to Elizabeth on her wedding day. Given to her by heads of the City of London and of notable banks and exchanges, the piece is known as the City of London Fringe Necklace.

It may not quite qualify as jewelry itself, but clothing, bejeweled or otherwise, is at the heart of an exhibit titled “Costuming The Crown.” Crowns and costumes or jewelry and clothing: either way, the one does not go without the other.

At Winterthur

For my visit, the plan was to meet long-time Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist feature and column writer Cathleen McCarthy at the museum. She’s working on a detailed story about the exhibit, along with an in-depth look at what was involved in so carefully replicating much of the jewelry and other ornaments for the series. Watch for her stories coming in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist May/June 2020.

I arrived at Winterthur early enough to enjoy a stroll through a bit of the estate’s nearly thousand acres of grounds. After seeing the exhibit, I had to see the house and more of the gardens. The naturalistic woodland landscaping is one of the things for which this former home of Henry Francis du Pont is known. The house, now the museum, showcases the other: du Pont’s outstanding collection of Americana.

Merle White is Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

Netflix’s Original Series The Crown is produced by Left Bank Pictures in association with Sony Pictures Television. Costumes by Michele Clapton and Jane Petrie; jewelry replicated by Juliette Designs. Learn more about Winterthur.

Find More Jewelry Fit for a Queen

If you love the opulent sensibility of royal jewels and jewelry design that looks back for inspiration, you’ll want to see Cathleen McCarthy’s “Old Souls” and her related revival-inspired feature “Patina of Age.” You’ll find them in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist November/December 2019. Also check out her features “Revival” and “Ancient Reinvented” in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist September/October 2019.

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