Jewellery Designers Draw Inspiration From Bugs

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — “Bonkers About Beetles.” “Innumerable Bugs.” “Bugs: A Pop-Up E-book.” The volumes that line the shelves of the jewelry designer Daniela Villegas’s house in this part of greater Los Angeles underscore what is noticeable to any one who ventures within: She is passionate about pests.

Hundreds of specimens — of the six, 8- and 100-plus-leg varieties — dangle in frames on the walls, are shown in bell jars on the shelves and lie beneath the glass atop her outsized coffee desk. Considerably of the assortment was obtained at bug fairs and is shared with her partner, the household furniture designer Sami Hayek (Salma’s youthful brother). It is likely to make readers consider they have wandered into the entomology part of a organic history museum, or instead, its deluxe present store.

The eccentric décor involves a stuffed armadillo adorned with its have gemstone bracelet a wicker desk in the form of a grasshopper, topped with a crab sculpture and a selection of Ms. Villegas’s signature Khepri rings, honoring the scarab-confront god of historic Egypt. The scarab beetle is just one of at minimum a dozen creatures — like crabs and crickets, salamanders and snakes, weevils and strolling sticks — that Ms. Villegas, a indigenous of Mexico Metropolis, has immortalized in jewel sort considering the fact that 2008, when she moved to Los Angeles and created her initially bug piece, a stag beetle necklace.

“We really don’t see bugs since they are tiny and we never pay back consideration,” she said on a sunny morning in late March. “But they are incredible species, complete of wonderful renewal strength.”

Bees, beetles and butterflies have been a staple of figurative jewellery for very well over a century. But not considering that the character-obsessed Victorian period — and the Art Nouveau time period that adopted it — have jewellery designers expressed so significantly desire in the little beings that crawl, fly and slither amid us.

“Most bugs, if you get further than the ‘ick’ component, are jewel-like,” stated the writer and jewelry historian Marion Fasel, who was the guest curator for the American Museum of Pure History’s “Beautiful Creatures” exhibition of animal-encouraged jewellery in 2021 in New York.

“There’s virtually a luminescence to their exoskeletons, and I think jewelers reply to that,” she additional.

Ms. Fasel as opposed the Victorian era’s fascination with mother nature, a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, with our individual electronic age. “It’s a parallel to the transform of the final century,” she explained. “We reside this sort of on-line life and we’re continuously staring at screens. To essentially glance at mother nature and, greater however, to have a piece of it on you in the variety of a jewel, is comforting.”

For jewellery lovers who care about the atmosphere, a bejeweled bug could have a deeper this means, claimed Levi Higgs, head of archives and model heritage at David Webb, the corporation founded 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 explained. “Bugs could be a symbol of solidarity with local climate adjust initiatives.”

The biggest factors for the enduring acceptance of insect jewels, even so, may be additional individual, Ms. Fasel mentioned: “Their silhouettes and their symbolism. It’s anything you want in jewelry.”

Just inquire Sylvie Corbelin. A Paris designer, she grew to become enchanted with beetles, dragonflies, butterflies, flies and bees in 2009, when she noticed an exhibition of Albrecht Dürer’s function, which includes his famed 1505 drawing of a stag beetle. She has employed them in her get the job done ever due to the fact.

“I see them as symbols of metamorphosis, transformation and also resilience,” Ms. Corbelin wrote in an e mail. “They have a extraordinary ability to prosper in hostile environments.”

No insect represents metamorphosis far better than the butterfly. That is one rationale the Covid-19 pandemic appeared to heighten curiosity in butterfly jewels, Ms. Fasel said. But the winged creatures have constantly experienced their devotees.

Consider the gemstone carver and grasp jeweler Wallace Chan, whose creative devotion to butterflies is the subject of “Winged Splendor: The Butterfly Jewellery Art of Wallace Chan,” a 2021 reserve featuring some 30 of his most fantastical creations, encrusted with coloured diamonds and gemstones and established in the Hong Kong artist’s signature titanium.

Other butterfly-loving jewelers consist of Joel Arthur Rosenthal, ideal acknowledged as JAR, the Paris designer normally described by connoisseurs as this century’s solution to Peter Carl Fabergé, and Brosway Italia, a trend brand from the Marche location of Italy that threads the butterfly motif in the course of its stainless metal jewelry.

This 12 months, on the other hand, the bug of the minute appears to be the beetle — specially the totemic sort common to any one who has visited Egypt.

In February, Guita Mortinger, the New York designer identified as Guita M, released a line of brooches that includes porcelain scarabs created by the Austrian artist Gundi Dietz.

“My attraction to them started out in the ’80s, when I went to Egypt,” Ms. Mortinger said. “I was in Luxor and there was a massive statute of a scarab on a pedestal and the manual mentioned, ‘This is a statue of fertility and if you wander about it a few periods, you’ll get expecting.’

“I’d been striving to get pregnant and a handful of months later on, I did get expecting — my daughter is 39 now. That story stayed with me and by means of the many years I was constantly intrigued by them.”

The Dutch designer Bibi van der Velden was similarly drawn to the beetle’s affiliation with hope, luck and regeneration. At Paris Style 7 days in October, she unveiled a $44,100 eternity necklace showcasing 16 scarabs, some with pavé pink and purple sapphires and others embellished with serious green and blue scarab wings.

When Lauren Harwell Godfrey, a designer in Northern California, produced a line of scarab pendants in 2022, she was captivated by the colour prospects. “Traditionally, you see scarabs in lapis or that sort of stone palette, but undertaking issues with fluorite and rainbow moonstone puts an exciting color spin on the situation,” she said. “I have one coming out which is hearth opal and chrysoprase. And a consumer commissioned a person with pink topaz and turquoise wings.”

Much more not too long ago, Ms. Harwell Godfrey has turned her focus to bees. At the Couture jewellery present in Las Vegas, scheduled to open up June 1, “my situation will be comprehensive of them,” she mentioned.

For some customers, bees and their perhaps frightening cohorts — spiders, scorpions and the like — may evoke terrible memories. But irrespective of whether they attraction or repulse, jewels showcasing bugs are pretty much generally talking parts, mentioned Suzanne Martinez, co-operator of Lang Antique & Estate Jewelry in San Francisco. She referred to the Art Nouveau master René Lalique, whose insect jewels generally charmed and repulsed in equal evaluate.

“Lalique did a good deal of dragonflies mating,” Ms. Martinez mentioned. “Would you don a necklace that experienced mating dragonflies except you’re geared up to say, ‘I’m a free of charge human being and I’m not going to stay by the restraints of the Victorian period’?”

A equally anti-establishment ethos drives much of the fascination in the insect jewels sold at August, a great jewellery boutique in Los Angeles, reported its operator, Bill Hermsen. He cited the do the job of Gabriella Kiss, a designer in 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 large amount of artists and art curators, architects, persons fascinated in the arts,” Mr. Hermsen said. “It’s not the similar shopper who’s automatically likely to Harry Winston searching for a flawless stone.

“Gabriella’s operate staying so figurative. I think she’s celebrating that pressure in between the tiny creatures that make you go ewwww, and their existence in our lifestyle. That’s wherever the humor comes in.”

At a jewellery awards party in New York Metropolis in March, Mr. Higgs of David Webb embraced that rationale: He wore the brand’s one particular-of-a-sort scarab brooch created of blue-eco-friendly azurmalachite. “Having a big bug on your lapel is fairly cheeky,” he reported.

Victoria Lampley Berens, founder of the Stax, a jewellery advisory organization in Los Angeles, pointed out the inherent absence of gender of insect jewels. “They’re not for ladies or boys,” she reported.

“And not to audio much too sentimental about it, but bugs are the 1st creatures young children participate in with,” she additional. “You’re on the ground and you’re participating in with roly-polies and ladybugs.”

When that early fascination tends to morph into disgust as some individuals get more mature, plenty of jewelers keep on to uncover natural beauty and indicating in them.

The learn goldsmith Anthony Lent, a sculptor by schooling, claimed he made his initially insect jewel, “a praying mantis critter,” in the mid-1970s and has returned to the insect entire world plenty of occasions due to the fact.

“I just finished a massive pendant, a leaf primarily based on a linden seed, that has a lot of hidden issues in it,” Mr. Lent, a jeweler in Philadelphia, stated in a cellphone job interview last thirty day period. “The piece I picked up experienced aphids, and I extra a entire phantasmagoria with the ladybug and spider. But it’s not apparent at to start with glance. It is a bejeweled leaf that’s fragile and then you commence seeking at all the creatures.”

And but, as a recent come across of Mr. Lent’s produced distinct, most people are not as enthralled.

“I was in L.A. and stepped out of the back again doorway of the kitchen, sat on the measures and saw a 50-cent-piece-sized black spider stroll out from beneath the stairs and stare at my foot,” Mr. Lent claimed. “My good friend claimed, ‘Damn, a black widow!’ and squashed it. It was luminous. I was fascinated by it.”