Abigail Chew’s Coral Jewlery
This matching set of coral jewlery, called a parure, belonged to Abigail (Hallam) Chew, wife of Purser Thomas John Chew. The set includes two coral bracelets, a coral and pearl cameo brooch and pin, a coral necklace, and two coral pendant earrings.
The correspondence between Abigail Chew and her husband, Thomas, (preserved in the Clements Library, University of Michigan) reveal that theirs was a tender and loving relationship. She bore with equanimity the frequent partings and setbacks that came with having a husband tied to the naval service. Thomas, for his part, strove to increase his income so that he could provide for his wife and infant son. He frequently sent gifts home to them as tokens of his affection. It is likely that this set of coral jewelry was one such gift brought home after a long voyage to the Mediterranean. Chew may have purchased the parure when his ship, USS Washington, visited Italy between 1816 and 1818.