Just When I Thought I Had Seen it All - Live Bug Jewelry

I have always found it interesting that women, usually squeamish when it comes to all things creepy and crawly, find pleasure in wearing bejeweled snakes, frogs, lizards, flies, beetles, spiders and other types of reptiles, bugs, insects, amphibians and such. I know that it started with the ancient Egyptians and their love affair with the dung beetle, also known as the scarab.

Being a beetle would be enough to ward me off, but a dung beetle? Really? These beetle, roll dung into balls into which they lay their eggs. The newborn beetles seemed to appear out nothing, and so the Egyptians held them to be sacred symbols of creation and resurrection. A scarab amulet was usually included in burial, and King Tut’s, pictured here, has been on display around the world.

The Victorians were enamored with all things of nature and so insects were an obvious choice for jewelry of the mid to late 1800s. Baltic amber and its treasure trove of petrified and fossilized insects has always been a popular choice for jewelry.

Again in the 1940s and 1950s insects became the inspiration for jewelry made by the costume jewelry companies of the day. Coro, Kramer, Weiss, Juliana, Trifari and many more produced prolific inventories of the six and eight legged creatures.

I know that in the 1990s, once again, insects became a popular jewelry icon. When my daughter was a teenager she loved all things dragonfly and butterfly. Through my years traveling the US in our RV and selling jewelry on line I thought I had seen it all.

But a new trend in Mexico took me by surprise. For the last several years border agents have been confiscating bejeweled LIVE insect brooches. The pins are made from a type of beetle that has a sturdy outer shell and does not feed once it reaches its adult stage. Supposedly only males are used to prevent infestation. The bugs are affixed with bits of gold and silver and encrusted with Swarovski crystals. They are leashed and worn pinned to your sweater, blouse or jacket. While you go about your day, the beetle freely roams around your lapel and shoulder—eye catching to be sure!

Let me be the first to say that I will not be running off to Mexico to buy one since I can’t even bring myself to wear a sterling and turquoise spider that I own. And before you pack your bags, you should know that it is illegal to cross the border with this little treasure. I guess it was the natural “next step” for those who love bug jewelry. But unlike the gems made over the last several centuries, I don’t think the ones made today will be around in 2100. So if you are looking to pass your favorite pieces on to the next generation, stick to the ones that can be found right here on Ruby Lane!

Cindy Brown of Cinsababe’s on Ruby Lane and Quindy’s on Ruby Plaza

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Vintage Begins Here: Explore the exciting world of Ruby Lane. Discover thousands of independent shops showcasing quality Antique & Art, Vintage, and Jewelry items from the world's largest curated marketplace.

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