Bitten by the jewellery bug

Insect jewellery is made of real insects dried out and kept in plastic pouches, obtained from all around the world, mainly China. The Brazilian butterfly, with its brilliantly coloured wings, has been made into jewellery for ages, says Lajwanti D’Cruz

Insect jewellery or decorative jewellery with beautiful insects imbedded or coated with metallic deposits has not been much favoured in our country on account of the religious susceptibilities. But, of late, due to the large groups of Indian tourists shopping in malls across the world, especially in the East, insect jewellery has become a beauty accessory in our country also. Especially the fairer sex has begun to sport insect jewellery.

The ideas that jewellery designers come up with amazes one. There really is a niche for everyone out there. The key is to finding the customer demand and going for it. Jewellers are happy to outfit you with their own creations—live jewelled beetles, dragonflies and cockroaches. I did not believe this myself when a friend told me until I saw it on a fashion show on TV. In a bizarre inversion of the nature/artifice shift, some women in the US actually wore live insects as adornment. The New York Sun reported the sighting of young women who used live fireflies to embellish their hairdos that "flashed and gleamed and glowed that diamonds never did." The story includes an interview with a jeweller who, in an attempt to capitalise upon this trend, was trying to create imitation fireflies in diamonds. The jeweller suggested that if only he knew what to feed fireflies, he could enclose live ones in a silver cage and manufacture earrings or hairpins from them.

Insect jewellery flitted into fashion history in ancient Egypt. Flies, mosquitoes and scarabs were popular emblems for signet rings and necklaces set with stones such as lapis lazuli and quartz. Interest in bug motifs waned in subsequent centuries as religious designs proliferated.

The genre made a comeback in the 1800s after Napoleon I of France adopted the bee as his insignia; the insect soon adorned everything from neoclassical earrings to chokers. During the Victorian era, a romantic fascination with nature led to a swarm of butterfly brooches, beetle hat-pins and fly pendants made from gold filigree, enamel and semi-precious gems. Around the turn of the 20th century, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Rene Lalique created bejewelled bug necklaces, combs and pins in elaborately curved, intertwined designs.

Insect jewellery is made of real insects dried out and kept in plastic pouches, obtained from all around the world, mainly from the East, especially China. The Brazilian butterfly, with its brilliantly coloured wings, has been made into jewellery for ages.

The wings were made into brooches, sweater guards, pendants and earrings.`A0 Dragonflies are beautiful and ethereal looking, and are found all over the world. Historically, dragonflies are ancient insects, and are depicted on antique Chinese scrolls and jewellery. Some of these dragonfly pins are made as a series. Using the same form, each is uniquely decorated so that it becomes one of a kind. The miniature dragonflies come in two different shapes, the smaller of which is often seen as a woman's figure or a fairy. Butterfly wing jewellery became very popular in the 1940s and 1950s.`A0 The wings can lose their powdery iridescence. So some specimens are lacking lustre and colour. Another popular beetle, the common lady beetle, has been used as a cover for a fine, Swiss pendant watch. When the antennae of the insect were compressed, its wings spread to expose the face of the watch.

In jewellery factories in China you can see the jewellers putting a real insect inside clear resin, keeping the beauty of the insect forever, making for keychain, necklace, earring, bracelet, paperweight and desktop decoration. Another specialty is ant necklaces. Each ant is specimen quality, capable of being examined under a microscope, and is encased in a clear, nearly indestructible, acrylic bubble block. The ant necklace features a stylish cord strap that fits all sizes and has a quality metal clasp to ensure that it stays put.

In India as yet we do not have insect jewellery produced in commercial quantities. But international jewellers have great regard for the lac jewellery made in India, especially in Rajasthan. Lac (Laksha in Sanskrit) is a product of commerce derived from a specialised group of plant bugs commonly known as lac insects, which thrive on specific trees called lac hosts.

But of late, to cater to export trade, a number of jewellers have started making insect jewellery, in which dead insects like bugs, moths and scorpions are embedded in blocks of resin or amber for the international market. Amber jewellery items are unique and can be given as personalised gifts for any occasion.

They are trendy, adorable and unique gift items. Each amber jewellery item has an original insect. Such jewellery items include keychains, bracelets, pendants, necklaces and charms. — MF