From ancient times, there have been examples of jewelry made out of insects. Amber jewelry can even have insects embedded into the material itself. One style of insect jewelry which remains very collectible today is Butterfly Wing Jewelry.
Butterfly wing jewelry was first promoted in 1924, when Thomas Mott exhibited his butterfly wing jewelry collection at the British Empire Exhibition.
If you are a gardener, you will know the appeal of a fluttering butterfly and have been amazed by its beauty. However, you may have, at some point, entered an antique or collectible store and walked right past a picture or piece of jewelry which is actually made of butterfly wings and not even been aware of this fact. That is one of the beauties of butterfly wing jewelry. It is subtle and yet so beautiful.
The reason that butterfly wing jewelry is not immediately recognizable is because the wings are used as a background, and are made to simulate water, the sky or other solid colored backgrounds. From this point, an artist may reverse paint the forefront of the wing to make the piece of jewelry that you are seeing.
There are several different styles of butterfly wing jewelry:
* "Morpho Butterfly Jewelry" – scenes are reverse painted on the butterfly wing and then the whole scene is covered in glass or lucite. All types of scenes can be used, but common ones are tropical, or western. I’ve even seen some done with people or animals.
* Intact Morpho Butterfly Jewelry – in this type the wing is not altered in any way. The wing is simply set into jewelry and left so that the piece just showcases the natural beauty of the wing itself.
* Whole Butterfly jewelry. Jewelry using this form is quite rare. It is the oldest form of butterfly jewelry. The insect itself is set into a large pendant or brooch.
In the United States, there is one notable maker of Butterfly wing jewelry – Hoffman. They still manufacture pieces today. Many of the newer pieces are sold at Amish farms in and around the areas of Lancaster, Pa. Older Hoffman pieces are quite collectible.
Caring for butterfly jewelry is relatively easy. The main concern is moisture which can damage the wing itself. Use soft polishing cloths on the outside of the piece to keep the metal in good condition and you are all set. Avoid ultrasonic cleaners on butterfly wing jewelry.
These are photos of the three styles of butterfly wing jewelry. Which is your favorite?