As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.
– Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
I know how beneficial spiders are, but it doesn’t mean I have to like them. I’m okay with daddy-longlegs, but any hairy spiders in the house are destined to wind up in the vacuum cleaner bag with lots of dog hair. Spiders belong outdoors and not in my house. I’m arachnophobic; just ask my old college roommates about how much I fear spiders! All other insects are interesting when they are also outdoors and not in my house, and not in my son’s room, where a tarantula exoskeleton, which once belonged in my mother-in-law’s classroom when she was a teacher, resides. I suggested to my son that he donate it to his science teacher’s classroom. If this is how I feel about insects, how to explain my love of jewelry inspired by insects? I don’t have an answer for that.
It all began a few years ago when I was browsing the display cases of jewelry at one of my favorite accessories shops, Lava 9 in Berkeley (1797 Solano Avenue, 510.528.5336). I came across a sterling silver cicada on a long chain. I didn’t get it then, but months later, when I returned to purchase it, the sales person informed me that it had sold. I was disappointed, even as she told me there was a chance the store could order it from the Swedish company, Lotta & Djossou, though it was from a collection from a previous season. As I turned away, I caught sight of some jewelry at eye level in a glass case on the main counter, and lo and behold, there was the cicada in all its etched glory. The necklace apparently had made its way from Lava 9’s San Francisco store to the Berkeley store. Just for me.
There was something about it that reminded me of both the Victorian and Art Nouveau eras. It was edgy yet romantic, something Stevie Nicks would have worn back in the early 1970s. Two years ago, I met a local woman as part of a consumer group for a retail clothing and accessories company at their headquarters in Philadelphia. She was wearing a vintage Art Nouveau butterfly necklace. It was stunning – the kind of jewelry that you wear alone, and if you did wear another accessory it would be deemed fashion blasphemy. She told me she had admired the piece for a long time, and then when the vintage shop owner decided to close her business she gave the necklace to her. I stopped short of asking her to name her price, though I knew such a request would be futile. Thus began my hunt for a vintage butterfly necklace via eBay, Etsy, and antique and vintage shops – all in vain so far.
Butterflies and cicadas. Soon bumblebees in earrings from Anthropologie and an ornately wrought cuff became part of my insect jewelry collection. I got the bumblebee cuff while in Philadelphia and got a good laugh when the sales person told me the artist was Jan Michaels from San Francisco and not from a local jewelry designer. Then I added a dragonfly and a beetle, both from Alkemie, to my small but growing collection. Beijo Brasil makes beautiful butterfly earrings and necklaces out of translucent resin. I found a cicada ring at End of Century in New York last fall. I was tempted by a couple of thick sterling silver cuffs with row upon row of beetles, but I didn’t succumb, at least not that visit. And then I came full circle to Lava 9, adorned with more winged insect jewelry.
I’m pretty particular about the look and feel of insect jewelry. I’m drawn to both Art Nouveau and Art Deco, vintage and edgy. I’m still in search for that perfect vintage butterfly necklace. If you share a love for insect jewelry, I welcome you to share it with me and other fellow admirers. If you can’t shoo insects out of the house, adorn them on your fingers, wrists, and around your neck.