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Insect gems

Metaxymorpha nigrofasciata (Nouvelle-Guinée)
  • Metaxymorpha nigrofasciata (Nouvelle-Guinée)
  • Chrysochroa ephippigera (Vietnam)
  • Chrysina aurigans (Costa Rica)
Insect gems

For the longest time, the beauty and magnificence of insects have been a source of inspiration for painters, sculptors, writers and artists in general. When you see some of them, it’s no surprise to learn that shamans, the populations of various tribes and the jewelers of today have all used and continue to use insects as raw material – as “precious stones” that they transform into magnificent necklaces, earrings and other pieces of jewelry.

And really, insects, and particularly beetles because of their hard shells and elytra (wing cases), are true living “precious stones.” The scientific or common names of certain beetles are directly connected to the beauty and the glow of the colors or metallic highlights that are such a delight to see.

Worthy of note among these is the radiance – as vivid as gold or silver – of the scarab beetles Chrysina resplendens, C. chrysargyrea, Chrysophora chrysocholora and Pelidnota sumptuosa. The adjectives in these names of Greek origin mean “gold,” “silver,” “golden”, “bearing gold and green-gold” and “splendid.” Renowned jewelers like Cartier, Robert Phillips and Fabergé created magnificent brooches for queens and other monarchs incorporating beetles.

Another group of beetles that can easily bear comparison with the scarabs is the borer family. These also possess bright elytra, with metallic multicolored highlights. The sun hitting these insect gems reveals a palette of magical colors. The literature mentions that Japan was using these beetles as jewels as early as the year 650! In India, the use of borer-beetle elytra goes back to 1600.

Look carefully at the insects in the collection on display at the Insectarium. There are some gems that rank with the most beautiful living jewels on the planet, and you might see them in a whole new light now – and maybe imagine all the exquisite jewelry they embody...

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