Monday, 1 June 2009

Bugged Out


A number of months ago I saw this Victorian beetle brooch at an antiques fair. Unfortunately, at the time I didn't have cash on me, so this little guy was reserved for me until the next antiques fair was held in my locality. Last bank holiday weekend, after months of waiting, I was finally able to pay for him and take him home. The main body of the beetle exhibits a beautiful range of irridescent greens. He is mounted in silver, with some filigree work on his back, and has cabochon rubies for eyes. I've been proudly wearing him on my lapel for quite a few days now, to a mixed response. I just love the fact that one day, he was alive, scuttling around in the Middle East somewhere, and now 100+ years later he is in England, on my lapel, after decades of being passed from generation to generation, collector to collector (who knows where he's been?!). I had assumed he is a scarab beetle, but he is rather large compared to the ones I've seen...so anyone know anything about beetle identification? I got a bit too excited and took loads of pictures...but he just looked so good in the sunshine, I couldn't resist.










Quite by chance, I came across this little purse on ebay the other day. Dating from 1890, it is another example of how the Victorians used beetles as decorative items. Here, beetle wings have been embroidered onto the body of the bag. I've never seen beetles used in such a way, and must say I think it looks rather wonderful. 

photo from ebay user 1860-1960

Of course, the Victorians didn't just stop at beetles to create fabulous jewellery. In fact, a general Victorian fascination with all of natures flora and fauna led to some crazy creations- even by todays standards. I remember seeing a pair of hummingbird head earrings a couple of weeks back, but I can't find the damn website again, nor did I save the picture. So, this hummingbird head brooch will have to do for now. This hummingbird has been given a replacement gold beak, and I believe either ruby or topaz eyes. Either way, its pretty scary stuff; even I have to draw the line somewhere. These images of the hummingbird brooch are from a collection of jewellery belonging to a lady called Cathy Gordon. Her fascinating (and enviable) collection is viewable here. Cathy describes the use of hummingbirds in jewellery as "a natural extension of the fashion for hummingbird cases of taxidermy ubiquitous in the Victorian house." I'm not entirely sure how 'natural' this extension was. A stuffed bird in a glass dome is one thing, but a stuffed birds head dangling from your ear is quite another. 




The book Victorian Jewellery by Margaret Flower provides a fantastic quote relating to the Victorian usage of animals in accessories. A writer in the Ladies Treasury in 1884 noted how "We [ladies] do not require to go to the Zoological Gardens to see strange animals." Yeah, why go to the zoo when you can wear the zoo, hey?

15 comments:

Marie said...

wow birds brooches are beautiful...I love taxidermy jewellery.

vorega badalamenti said...

agree with marie, really cute!!!
btw i already linked yours dear.. =)

Barima said...

An elegant little find, and it's touching that you were able to buy it the second time around (that's what antiques are all about). Victorian handiwork was rather intricate indeed

v said...

cant wait to see your blog progress

http://the-newface.blogspot.com/

Damsels said...

lovethat beetle too.
myfavorite has to be the bird tho .
its so unique
We Were Damsels

Lecon de vetement said...

I want everything in your post, right now!!!!!!! hahaha!

Marian said...

wha a wonderful antique beetle brooch,it is beautiful and so detailed! Yes the victorians were fascinated with fauna and animals.i love this post so much!
muah xx
Marian

watergirl said...

for bugged out:

I have questions about your rare beetle...
respond to: thenonidog@yahoo.com

I have one almost identical in 14k
with additional pendant loop and smaller eyes

harps said...

watergirl - if you want to leave your questions here in the comments box I'll email you answers

thenonidog@yahoo.com said...

I have a very similar beetle brooch. Smaller eyes, larger, 14k gold. Do you have more information on yours? Period, Artist, Value?
I can take pics and email. But, you'll have to make it ez. I am not computer literate.
Mary: thenonidog@yahoo.com
location: california

Ulla said...

Now that was worth the wait! I love it!!! Here is a wonderful site you need to look at!

http://www.loriepricebischoff.typepad.com/

Lorie often has amazing pieces to share with both insects and humming birds, and her art is wonderful as well. Check out her side-bar on the right for more items...
Hugs
Ulla

Anonymous said...

Hey, I am checking this blog using the phone and this appears to be kind of odd. Thought you'd wish to know. This is a great write-up nevertheless, did not mess that up.

- David

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was trying to find out about my green beetle brooch which I inherited from an aunt when I found your blog. Mine is gold coloured metal but otherwise near identical. What did you pay for yours? Sheena

harps said...

Hi Sheena,

the brooch was £90, though I managed to negotiate the price down to £80. I think this was a very reasonable price due to the size and condition of the beetle. Thanks for stopping by, let me know if you have any more questions, Jess.

Anonymous said...

Hi again, Thanks for replying. I will think a lot more of my brooch now. I only realised that it might be Victorian when I read an article about actress Ellen Terry's beautiful green Victorian dress, restored with thousands of beetle wings. Saw another dress today in a National Trust property, Springhill, which also used beetle wings like sequins. Sheena

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