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by SARBANI NYC April 01, 2020 5 min read

Papilio Ear Pendants, Bug EarringsCreepy crawlers are probably not the first thing you think of when you imagine fashion jewelry. It may surprise you to learn that insects have had a significant impact on the fashion world, particularly when it comes to jewelry, throughout many eras. 

The bug jewelry trend has both evolved and grown in popularity over the last several years. As large, statement-making accessories continue to dominate the fashion world, we are seeing more and more large motifs like realistic butterflies and beetles. And it’s no surprise, as these bold, edgy critters certainly garner attention.

As jewelry designer Yasmin Everley explained, “Bugs and beetles make a great subject because they toy with the ideas of desirability and repulsion. They also epitomize the mantra ‘live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse’, as their exoskeletons remain while their soft flesh decays within.”

With this in mind, we can start to understand why insect-inspired jewels have been so influential throughout history, and why artists continue to use them in their designs today. Keep reading to learn more and find out how bug jewelry is being created and styled in modern fashion.

Bug Jewelry Throughout History

Bug jewelry can be traced back through many centuries. Writings by both Herodotus and Aristophanes reference the men of Athens wearing golden crickets in their hair.

Then there was Ancient Egypt and the scarab beetle. Egyptians believed that the scarab beetle was a symbol of renewal and rebirth. 

They also associated the insect closely with the sun god because scarabs roll large balls of dung in which they lay their eggs. (Hey, insects aren’t worried about glamor.) The Egyptians felt this closely resembled the progression of the sun through the sky from east to west. When the eggs hatched, the event was associated with the sun god, Khepri, being reborn every morning and bringing light and life to the land.

Additionally, scarabs appeared as common forms in jewelry and many other objects because they were believed to have magical rejuvenating powers that could work on both the living and the dead.

Fast-forward many centuries later to the Victorian era, when Europeans began putting their own spin on creature-inspired baubles because they wanted to be more in touch with nature. Designers at this time showcased their skill and craftsmanship with intricate pieces in the forms of butterflies, dragonflies, honey bees, and more wildlife. The styles embodied the relationship between the approaching industrial age and the natural world. 

Henri Vever Antique Butterfly Pendant
Henri Vever Antique Butterfly Pendant

Jacques & Marcus Antique Beetle Brooch
Jacques & Marcus Antique Beetle Brooch

Designers and stylists didn’t stop there in their quest to reconnect with nature. They began creating living jewelry—which is literally what it sounds like.Cue full-body shudder.

One popular technique was trapping live beetles, adhering gems to the beetles’ back, and leashing them to chains attached to pins. They also used live fireflies in their hairdos. Additionally, the Victorians practiced a lot of taxidermy on other animals for the sake of fashion. They eventually pushed many species to the brink of extinction.

Confiscated specimens in the Coleoptera collections of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Confiscated specimens in the Coleoptera collections of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. | Kristen Stipanov and Brendan McCabe

Living jewelry can still be found in some Central and South American countries. In fact, those in the Victorian era were not the first to sport live brooches. The makech beetle is a bedazzled bug that has been worn for centuries. It is decorated with rhinestones and attached to a chain on a pin so that it can crawl around the wearer’s shirt.

Fortunately, this does not occur in many other areas today. The critters we see walking the runways are made of gold, silver, and stones. And we’re happy to keep it that way!

Modern Insect-Inspired Jewelry

Nature is, understandably, a popular muse when it comes to fashion. Insects like beetles, bees, and butterflies are truly interesting motifs. They are bold, unapologetic, and free—no wonder we look to them for insight and even wear them in our clothes and jewelry!

Erykah Badu wearing Jessica Pass London Cicada bug jewelry
Erykah Badu wearing Jessica Pass London Cicada bug jewelry

Gucci was one of the first modern fashion houses to embrace the bug jewelry design trend. Its iconic bee was first used in the ‘70s on statement rings, earrings, pendant necklaces, and more. It features an aged gold finish, aged crystals on the wings, and a cream resin pearl as the body, which is topped off with the famous interlocking 'G'. 

Gucci Bee Ring with crystals and pearl
Gucci Bee Ring

Gucci Bee Rings
Various Gucci Bee Ring Styles

The life-like bee has now been revived as a key code of the House and appears in many designs. Gucci has also designed an array of other stunning insect gems, including the signature butterfly emblem from the Gucci Garden.

Gucci Butterfly Ring
Gucci Crystal Studded Butterfly Ring, Cruise 2019 Interpretation

Other contemporary designers like Alexander McQueen, Oscar De La Renta, and Begüm Khan have completed their looks with everything from beetle jewels to spider necklaces and more. We’re also seeing large insect statement rings and brooches.

Alexander McQueen Beetle Rings and Accessories with Swarovski Crystals
Alexander McQueen Beetle Rings and Accessories with Swarovski Crystals

Oscar De La Renta Spider Pendant Necklace
Oscar De La Renta Spider Pendant Necklace

Begum Khan Insect Jewelry
Begüm Khan Insect Jewelry | Photo by Begüm Khan

The bugs you’ll find on today’s jewelry are realistic, detailed, and edgy. Many even give a weird and dangerous vibe. Insects of modern designs are not the cute, pretty, and softened versions that were prevalent several years ago. As designers include fiercer critters like spiders and beetles, they are mimicking their actual shapes and colors.

Imago Collection

Our Imago collection is a stunning example of modern insect jewelry. According to designer Outhouse Jewellery, the pieces in this series were inspired by a fascination with nature. The various baubles illustrate the transformation that occurs in a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly. These shapes symbolize the growth and maturity of human nature that occurs over our lifetime.

Outhouse Jewellery Glasswing Choker, Stud Earrings, and Ring
Glasswing Choker, Stud Earrings, and Ring

Silver Night Ring
Silver Night Ring

The design of the jewelry in Imago is a lively yet chic play between the Swarovski crystals and enameling with colors like green, pink, blue, and yellow. With styles available in gold, rose gold, and gunmetal finish, the collection includes something for every style and outfit. Detailed butterflies and dragonflies inspired by real species comprise accessories like dramatic statement earrings, bold chokers, delicate midi rings, and elegant brooches. 

Papilio Button Top Stud Earrings
Papilio Button Top Stud Earrings

Papilio Ear Pendants in Coral
Papilio Ear Pendants in Coral

Chrysalis Gunmetal Studs
Chrysalis Gunmetal Studs

Insect fashion jewelry is the perfect way to add a unique pop to your style at any time of year. From floating butterflies in the spring to creeping spiders in the fall, you can find a crawler for any ensemble.

Shop the Imago collection today to add a touch of mother nature to your wardrobe.

Stephanie Chabot, Style Editor
Sarbani NYC

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