Figural Costume Jewelry – Bugs, Bees and Butterflies

Figural jewelry pieces are little works of art, in the shapes of people, plants, animals, places and things. Both vintage and contemporary jewelry designers look to nature for inspiration.

In this article we’ll focus on the insect world. The gorgeous colors of butterflies, the rotund bodies of bees, the many shapes of other bugs lend themselves to some of the most beautiful and popular figural jewelry. People who get the willies just thinking about insects are often avid collectors, and will wear their “love bugs” with pride.

Trifari “Jelly Belly” designs of the 1940s lent themselves to insect motifs, due to the round lucite “bellies” that can look just like a bug’s abdomen. They came in all the colors found in nature, and some that were found only in the imagination of the designer.

Rhinestones made wings and legs sparkle and glow. A large rhinestone could be the body of the bug, and the wings could be studded with smaller rhinestones in an all-over pattern. Oval shaped rhinestones were perfect for wings, and Aurora Borealis iridescent rhinestones made them shine. Little rhinestones became sparkling eyes.

The bright colors of Lucite and Bakelite were perfect for insect pins. The carvings on plastic jewelry made for some intricate details. Art glass could be made iridescent just like the body of a beetle. Starting a collection of insect figural jewelry, or adding them to your collection, is a great way to focus on a particular style. Some real finds are still out there.

The bee pin in the photo has red Aurora Borealis rhinestones on the wings and dark red rhinestones on the eyes and body. It was found at a thrift store for $1.99! As always, inspect any piece you want to buy very carefully. Use that jeweler’s loupe or a strong magnifying glass to look for flaws, and with luck you’ll also find the signature of the designer.

Watch for the next article on figural costume jewelry – the selection is virtually unlimited!