Jewelry Designers Draw Inspiration From Bugs
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — “Bonkers About Beetles.” “Innumerable Insects.” “Bugs: A Pop-Up Book.” The volumes that line the cabinets of the jewellery designer Daniela Villegas’s house on this a part of better Los Angeles underscore what is apparent to anybody who ventures inside: She is obsessed with pests.
Thousands of specimens — of the six, eight- and 100-plus-leg varieties — grasp in frames on the partitions, are displayed in bell jars on the cabinets and lie beneath the glass atop her outsized espresso desk. Much of the gathering was acquired at bug festivals and is shared along with her husband, the furnishings designer Sami Hayek (Salma’s youthful brother). It is prone to make guests suppose they’ve wandered into the entomology part of a pure historical past museum, or quite, its deluxe present store.
The eccentric décor features a stuffed armadillo adorned with its personal gemstone bracelet; a wicker desk within the form of a grasshopper, topped with a crab sculpture; and a group of Ms. Villegas’s signature Khepri rings, honoring the scarab-face god of historic Egypt. The scarab beetle is one in all at the least a dozen creatures — together with crabs and crickets, salamanders and snakes, weevils and strolling sticks — that Ms. Villegas, a local of Mexico City, has immortalized in jewel kind since 2008, when she moved to Los Angeles and made her first bug piece, a stag beetle necklace.
“We don’t see insects because they’re tiny and we don’t pay attention,” she mentioned on a sunny morning in late March. “But they’re incredible species, full of beautiful renewal energy.”
Beyond the ‘Ick’ Factor
Bees, beetles and butterflies have been a staple of figurative jewellery for nicely over a century. But not for the reason that nature-obsessed Victorian period — and the Art Nouveau interval that adopted it — have jewellery designers expressed a lot curiosity within the tiny beings that crawl, fly and slither amongst us.
“Most insects, if you get beyond the ‘ick’ factor, are jewel-like,” mentioned the creator and jewellery historian Marion Fasel, who was the visitor curator for the American Museum of Natural History’s “Beautiful Creatures” exhibition of animal-inspired jewelry in 2021 in New York.
“There’s almost a luminescence to their exoskeletons, and I think jewelers respond to that,” she added.
Ms. Fasel in contrast the Victorian period’s fascination with nature, a response to the Industrial Revolution, with our personal digital age. “It’s a parallel to the turn of the last century,” she mentioned. “We live such online lives and we’re constantly staring at screens. To actually look at nature and, better still, to have a piece of it on you in the form of a jewel, is comforting.”
For jewellery lovers who care concerning the surroundings, a bejeweled bug could have a deeper that means, mentioned Levi Higgs, head of archives and model heritage at David Webb, the corporate based by a midcentury American jeweler famed for his maximalist animal items.
“I know a lot of collectors of jewelry, and they’re big patrons of botanical gardens,” Mr. Higgs mentioned. “Bugs could be a symbol of solidarity with climate change initiatives.”
The greatest causes for the enduring recognition of insect jewels, nevertheless, could also be extra private, Ms. Fasel mentioned: “Their silhouettes and their symbolism. It’s everything you want in jewelry.”
Just ask Sylvie Corbelin. A Paris designer, she turned enchanted with beetles, dragonflies, butterflies, flies and bees in 2009, when she noticed an exhibition of Albrecht Dürer’s work, together with his well-known 1505 drawing of a stag beetle. She has used them in her work ever since.
“I see them as symbols of metamorphosis, transformation and also resilience,” Ms. Corbelin wrote in an electronic mail. “They have a remarkable ability to thrive in hostile environments.”
No insect represents metamorphosis higher than the butterfly. That is one purpose the Covid-19 pandemic appeared to intensify curiosity in butterfly jewels, Ms. Fasel mentioned. But the winged creatures have all the time had their devotees.
Take the gemstone carver and grasp jeweler Wallace Chan, whose creative devotion to butterflies is the topic of “Winged Beauty: The Butterfly Jewellery Art of Wallace Chan,” a 2021 e-book that includes some 30 of his most fantastical creations, encrusted with coloured diamonds and gems and set within the Hong Kong artist’s signature titanium.
Other butterfly-loving jewelers embody Joel Arthur Rosenthal, finest referred to as JAR, the Paris designer usually described by connoisseurs as this century’s reply to Peter Carl Fabergé, and Brosway Italia, a vogue model from the Marche area of Italy that threads the butterfly motif all through its stainless-steel jewellery.
This 12 months, nevertheless, the bug of the second seems to be the beetle — significantly the totemic sort acquainted to anybody who has visited Egypt.
In February, Guita Mortinger, the New York designer referred to as Guita M, launched a line of brooches that includes porcelain scarabs made by the Austrian artist Gundi Dietz.
“My attraction to them started in the ’80s, when I went to Egypt,” Ms. Mortinger mentioned. “I was in Luxor and there was a huge statute of a scarab on a pedestal and the guide said, ‘This is a statue of fertility and if you walk around it three times, you’ll get pregnant.’
“I’d been trying to get pregnant and a few months later, I did get pregnant — my daughter is 39 now. That story stayed with me and through the years I was always intrigued by them.”
The Dutch designer Bibi van der Velden was equally drawn to the beetle’s affiliation with hope, luck and regeneration. At Paris Fashion Week in October, she unveiled a $44,100 eternity necklace that includes 16 scarabs, some with pavé pink and purple sapphires and others embellished with actual inexperienced and blue scarab wings.
When Lauren Harwell Godfrey, a designer in Northern California, created a line of scarab pendants in 2022, she was captivated by the colour potentialities. “Traditionally, you see scarabs in lapis or that kind of stone palette, but doing things with fluorite and rainbow moonstone puts an interesting color spin on the situation,” she mentioned. “I have one coming out that’s fire opal and chrysoprase. And a client commissioned one with pink topaz and turquoise wings.”
More just lately, Ms. Harwell Godfrey has turned her consideration to bees. At the Couture jewellery present in Las Vegas, scheduled to open June 1, “my case will be full of them,” she mentioned.
Charm and Repulsion
For some shoppers, bees and their doubtlessly scary cohorts — spiders, scorpions and the like — could evoke unhealthy reminiscences. But whether or not they attraction or repulse, jewels that includes bugs are nearly all the time speaking items, mentioned Suzanne Martinez, co-owner of Lang Antique & Estate Jewelry in San Francisco. She referred to the Art Nouveau grasp René Lalique, whose insect jewels usually charmed and repulsed in equal measure.
“Lalique did a lot of dragonflies mating,” Ms. Martinez mentioned. “Would you wear a necklace that had mating dragonflies unless you’re prepared to say, ‘I’m a free person and I’m not going to live by the restraints of the Victorian period’?”
A equally anti-establishment ethos drives a lot of the curiosity within the insect jewels bought at August, a advantageous jewellery boutique in Los Angeles, mentioned its proprietor, Bill Hermsen. He cited the work of Gabriella Kiss, a designer within the Hudson Valley of New York, who fashions oxidized bronze and 18-karat gold into lifelike interpretations of ants, damsel flies and praying mantises.
“We have a lot of artists and art curators, architects, people interested in the arts,” Mr. Hermsen mentioned. “It’s not the same customer who’s necessarily going to Harry Winston looking for a flawless stone.
“Gabriella’s work being so figurative. I think she’s celebrating that tension between the little creatures that make you go ewwww, and their presence in our life. That’s where the humor comes in.”
At a jewellery awards occasion in New York City in March, Mr. Higgs of David Webb embraced that rationale: He wore the model’s one-of-a-kind scarab brooch product of blue-green azurmalachite. “Having a big bug on your lapel is pretty cheeky,” he mentioned.
Victoria Lampley Berens, founding father of the Stax, a jewellery advisory firm in Los Angeles, identified the inherent lack of gender of insect jewels. “They’re not for girls or boys,” she mentioned.
“And not to sound too sentimental about it, but bugs are the first creatures kids play with,” she added. “You’re on the ground and you’re playing with roly-polies and ladybugs.”
While that early fascination tends to morph into disgust as some individuals grow old, loads of jewelers proceed to search out magnificence and that means in them.
The grasp goldsmith Anthony Lent, a sculptor by coaching, mentioned he made his first insect jewel, “a praying mantis critter,” within the mid-Seventies and has returned to the insect world numerous occasions since.
“I just finished a big pendant, a leaf based on a linden seed, that has a lot of hidden things in it,” Mr. Lent, a jeweler in Philadelphia, mentioned in a telephone interview final month. “The piece I picked up had aphids, and I added a whole phantasmagoria with the ladybug and spider. But it’s not obvious at first glance. It’s a bejeweled leaf that’s delicate and then you start looking at all the creatures.”
And but, as a latest encounter of Mr. Lent’s made clear, most individuals are usually not as enthralled.
“I was in L.A. and stepped out of the back door of the kitchen, sat on the steps and saw a 50-cent-piece-sized black spider stroll out from beneath the stairs and stare at my foot,” Mr. Lent mentioned. “My friend said, ‘Damn, a black widow!’ and squashed it. It was luminous. I was fascinated by it.”