The Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library in Wilmington, Del., is featuring three pieces of jewelry from the television show Downton Abbey in a costume exhibit and will showcase more pieces during a series of lectures in November.
The pieces were created by London-based designer Andrew Prince. The story of how the pieces ended up at the Delaware historical museum is a series of happy coincidences, Liz Farrell, communications manager for the museum, tells JCK.
David Roselle, the director of the museum, knew that the most successful exhibition in the museum’s history had been an exhibition of film costumes. “A lightbulb went off, and he asked Tom Savage, director of museum affairs, whether he knew anyone who could get help us get costumes from Downton Abbey,” says Farrell. Savage happened to know a mutual acquaintance of Downton creator Julian Fellowes, and, a few weeks later, Savage met Fellowes for a meal, and the exhibition was in motion.
The exhibit opened in March and initially featured only costumes, but another serendipitous dinner meeting brought jewelry into the mix. “David Roselle had a fascinating dinner partner one night this summer: a collector of jewelry that had appeared on Downton Abbey and was designed by Andrew Prince, an English jewelry designer,” she says. After the dinner, museum staff asked the London-based collector if they could exhibit some of his treasures. “He very graciously consented,” she says.
“Andrew Prince has been designing jewelry for the characters on Downton Abbey since season three,” Farrell says. “They are costume pieces, but Prince’s knowledge of jewelry history and attention to detail gives them the effect of historical accuracy.” Prince began designing for the show after his work drew the attention of Caroline McCall, Downton’s costume designer.
Three pieces joined the exhibition in September: a hair slide of Swarovski crystals (worn by Lady Mary in season three); a wave scroll tiara of Swarovski crystals (also worn by Lady Mary in season three); and a double-drop necklace of Swarovski pearls and crystals (worn by an extra in the season four finale).
Courtesy the Winterthur Museum
In November, Prince will give a lecture at the museum, titled “From Downton to Gatsby: Jewellery and Fashion from 1890–1929.” He will also display additional pieces from Downton, including the dowager countess’ choker and tiara, the tiara that Lady Cora wore during the presentation-at-court episode, Lady Mary’s feather-motif jeweled hair clip, and necklaces and tiaras from the presentation-at-court episode.
Prince will give his lecture on Nov. 22 and 23, and the exhibit runs through Jan. 4, 2015. More information is available at Winterthur.org.