Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Jewelled Butterflies, Beetles, Bees and Dragonflies...

After several months' delay, the butterfly mobile is finally performing its fluttery dance in the draughts of air, beads glinting in the sunlight as the papery wings turn in the breeze. Hanging suspended from my ceiling, the butterflies surely feel disoriented as they spin, as yet lacking antennae, but weighed down by their crystal beads just like an entomologist's mounted specimens, captured in a dizzying eternal flight.
Making this latest version of the mobile led me to reorganise the first one (above) that I made around ten years ago, its paper napkin base surprisingly resilient after all this time. As I still have a number of butterflies left over, I will certainly make another mobile, yet again giving into my weakness for all insect forms.
As a child, I remember seeing antique insect jewellery that so mesmerised me that over the years I went on to build up my own collection in the form of brooches, necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Although dragonflies are the main specimens in my hoard, butterflies, beetles, bugs and bees came along too, sometimes worn or otherwise laid out as curiosity cabinet treasures.
My first dragonflies were simple tin Chinese pinbrooches that I loved - and I was recently delighted to discover that they are still in production some fifty years on! Whilst my first childhood pin dragonflies came from England, my last one came from Marseille, no less. I couldn't resist buying another as it gave me such a strange time-warp experience.
Others, meanwhile, are a little more elaborate and seem to have art nouveau inspiration. Above is a beautiful necklace that I was surprised to find in a UK high street store at a very cheap price... I didn't hesitate to snatch it up, suffice it to say.
The dragonfly bracelet was made by a jeweller here in France who produced such delicate pieces for sale on the art and culture fairs prior to her retirement... I was lucky to catch this specimen and have fond memories of wandering around les Fêtes Johanniques were I ensnared it!
The copper cricket was a distant present from my father, made by a friend of the family, and has been a faithful companion to many an item of clothing since then.
My bees all have special memories attached - from time spent at home in Cornwall when my children were young; a magical trip to Amsterdam last year with my son and then a special visit to Spitalfields where the tiny bee pendant stood out from an array of goods on a market stand on a cold autumn day when the magic of Dennis Sever's House was still buzzing in all my senses.
The ladybird and beetle pinbrooches were more odd high-street specimens, sold for a few centimes, as were my insect earrings that have been my jewellery staple for the past 15 years and have accompanied me through some chequered moments in time but we have got through to the present day, albeit a bit tarnished and worn!
All that glitters is not gold, but who cares? These rather ostentatious creatures all came from a lovely little shop in one of my favourite passages in Paris that sadly closed in the aftermath to Covid. Their showy bodies hold precious memories of Parisian day trips.
And finally my butterflies; the first being a present for my 17th birthday from a friend who is coming to visit me here in Reims this coming weekend and might be a little taken aback to see the enamel brooch still in my possession, even if the pin needs repairing.
This tiny bewelled butterfly brooch was brought back to me from Colombia a few years ago and its delicate enamelled wings are intricately decorated with tiny marcassite stones.
My rhinestone butterfly is a prized possession but its sparkling abdomen reminds me of a large tear drop and indeed the brooch comes from a tearful time that I have now thankfully left far behind me so that its pretty form is now set out amongst other magpie stashes...


  1. Yes taken aback indeed especially as you have gifted it back to me! I haven't seen that brooch for 40 years! It will polished up and worn with my new Parisian dresses. I lost a dragonfly brooch made by the same jeweller (Pat Cheney) a long time ago, so this is a lovely surprise.

  2. Roll on for the next meet-up and in the meantime I'll see what old treasures I can dust off from my (ever-growing) magpie hoard!


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