Daring to Demure: The Jewelry of Downton Abbey's Crawley Sisters

Antique Art Nouveau Locket Pendant

(This is the first of a three part series on the elegant accessories of Downton Abbey)

The world has been dazzled by the decadence and drama of Masterpiece Theater’s “Downton Abbey”. Chronicling the lives, loves and losses of the aristocratic Crawley family from the Edwardian era through World War I and its aftermath, the show has brought international love for period dramas to a fever pitch. Beyond the intrigue, romances and heartbreaking tragedies, Downton Abbey has become renowned for the extraordinary set and costume design.

The first season was set in the later years of the Edwardian era and the costume designs were exceptional examples of that era’s most sumptuous styles. From elegant evening wear to demure day dresses, each outfit is perfectly complemented by appropriate and period precise jewelry. There are a number of different types of costuming and accessories within the show that range from the more sedate and traditional-minded garb of the Dowager Countess (played brilliantly by the inimitable Maggie Smith), to the height of menswear displayed by both Lord Grantham and the heir-apparent Matthew Crawley, to the on trend outfits of the younger ladies. The various youthful styles of the day are best shown by the characters of the three Crawley sisters: Lady Mary, the eldest and most sophisticated; Lady Edith; the “plain” one; and Lady Sybil, the youngest and most independent one.

Lady Mary Crawley exudes sophistication, breeding and elegance. She is always dressed a la mode in the finest of fashions — without a single hair out of place. Even in the midst of the most distressing events, Lady Mary behaves with perfect poise and carriage. At times, she may come off as a little bit snobby or cold but beneath the icy exterior is a passionate, loving woman who wields her perfect behavior and social skills like a weapon.

Cultured Pearl Necklace with Diamond Clasps

Long Cultured Pearl Necklace with Diamond Clasps

Lady Mary is often shown in pearls. They are classic, elegant and epitomize femininity and womanhood. Whether wearing them at an extra long opera length or shorter and sweeter, pearls (such as the necklace pictured above which can be worn as a long single strand, two shorter nesting strands, or shorter single strands) are always a good choice for the sensual yet sophisticated woman.

Lady Edith, the middle sister, seems to get lost in the shuffle of things at times. Yet, despite being considered the “plain” sister, there is a spark to her personality that burns brightly once it is engaged. Her style is less precisely elegant than Lady Mary’s, but is a little more modern and forward-thinking.

Antique Art Nouveau Diamond Locket Pendant

Antique Art Nouveau Diamond Locket Pendant

Lady Edith is often pictured in yellow gold pendant necklaces and lockets. Like her character’s personality, these subdued styles hold hidden secrets. There is something solid and strong about these yellow gold looks that is a perfect reflection of Edith’s impressive fortitude.

The youngest sister, Lady Sybil, is definitely the rebel of the family. She is strong, compassionate and forward-thinking yet remains ladylike and feminine. Her style is a cross between traditional and modern, spanning multiple time periods (as in the scene where she dons risque harem trousers yet wears traditional jewelry) in the same way that her character stands at the junction between ancestral duty and modern social trends.

Ivory, Amethyst and Diamond Heart Pendant

Carved Ivory, Amethyst and Diamond Heart Pendant

Delicate and demure styles, such as this ivory pendant, often adorn Lady Sybil’s neck. They provide a link to her life in the English upper class — a world of manners and delicacy that puts a premium on femininity — which remains close to her heart despite her somewhat revolutionary ideals.

Be sure to look through our selection of Art Nouveau and Edwardian jewelry to see more items that would have glittered in Downton Abbey’s ballrooms and breakfast rooms and check back again soon on our blog to read the next part of our series, which will focus on Downton Abbey’s dapper gentlemen!

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