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Jewels of Scandal & Desire

Shimmering, captivating, and corrupting. Great jewels have dazzled people for millennia, their beauty and value producing respect, deception, love, and betrayal. Whether an enormous diamond, a jewel-encrusted heraldic pin, or an Order of the Garter Star, the language of jewels subtly, and sometimes ostentatiously, conveys a statement of power, position, and wealth.

This lecture explores how the 18th and 19th century British ruling classes, modeling themselves on the ancient Roman Empire, used jewelry to reinforce their positions in society and awe their peers. The aristocratic families that owned these jewels, such as the Marquess of Londonderry, were at the pinnacle of British society. They hosted glittering soirées at their expansive country houses and grand London homes, where their jewels were shown off to great effect.

British Royals collected jewels for both state and private use, and notable collectors included Queen Mary and Princess Margaret, who amassed collections of extraordinary tiaras, necklaces, and brooches. Curt DiCamillo discusses the tales behind these noble families, their houses, and their jewels, all weaving together to create a glittering web of power and position.