Creepy or Cool : live insect jewellery is here to stay
The trend of wearing live insect jewellery is surprisingly, not new. The ancient Egyptians wore scarabs while going into battle, believing them to have protective powers, whereas the women of the Mayan civilization used wore Maquech beetles encrusted with precious stones over their hearts as part of their endeavors to facilitate lasting and loving relationships. In modern times however, the concept of wearing a living insect, albeit encrusted with jewels, is a trend which is slowly but surely looking to become a fashion staple in a few years, with notable celebrities endorsing it amidst a sea of controversy.
In 1983, French artist, Hubert Duprat took on the unusual task of turning what is usually considered as being “ugly”, into fine pieces of wearable art. On observing the habits of the larvae of the Caddis fly, Duprat noticed that they constructed protective cocoons using whatever natural elements were around them and patched them together with silken thread; he then added gold to the equation. What resulted from this now-patented process were one of a kind, avant garde pieces of fine jewelry, which, while not to everyone’s taste, were certainly beautiful, and are still sold to fashion followers who appreciate the unique process and collaboration between man and insect which has gone into the piece. His process is appreciated more than others as it is non-invasive and merely exploits and adds to the insect’s natural behavior.
The Giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroach became popular in 2006 as live jewelry after being featured in a collection by Jared Gold, an American Fashion designer, who used Swarovski crystals to adorn the insects and attached a chain and leash to them. The “Roach Brooch” as it became known, quickly sold out, and has been worn by celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Matt Damon, Uma Thurman, and Carmen Electra. It even made an appearance in an episode of "Project Runway" featuring supermodel Heidi Klum.
The "brooch”, priced at $80,is shipped overnight in a box with a chain, leash and a list of care instructions; it is to be fed bananas, wiped with a damp cloth and enjoys a slightly humid climate.
Needless to say this treatment of giant, spitting cockroaches as pets created even more controversy and resulted in the production of the brooches being temporarily halted.
Creating jewellery on a live insect is a tedious and controversial process as it involves applying adhesives on the hood of an insect and then loading it with precious stones which might be heavy for it to bear. Animal Rights activists have strongly protested against the existence of live insect jewellery, while designers counter them by stating that the juxtaposition of beauty, i.e. gem stones, with creatures which are considered “ugly”, is not only a fashion statement but also a way to reduce the natural hatred of the cockroach! Living insect jewellery is also seen as being a “pet” of sorts, and feeding, grooming and maintenance instructions are sent along with the padded box in which the insects are shipped.
Whether or not insect jewellery will become a fashion staple or not remains to be seen, and the debate over whether it is pro or anti-animal rights will continue to rage, what is certain however is that there is no limit to creative ideas, unusual materials and sources of inspiration in the fashion world.