Throughout jewelry history, insects have been popular sources of inspiration for jewelers, particularly the bee. In the nineteenth century, the romantic interest in naturalism inspired artists to create jeweled renditions of all aspects of nature, including insects. Brooches, rings, necklaces, lockets and even hair ornaments took the forms of grasshoppers, houseflies, beetles and bees during the Victorian era.
As jewelry design entered the artistic period of Art Nouveau in the early 20th century, bees became a favorite theme for jewelers in their ornately designed pieces. Both Gaillard and Lalique incorporated bees as part of jeweled tableaus, such as bees sucking nectar from flowers. In the 1930s and ’40s, the scientific term “hymenoptera”, the name for the order of four-winged insects, was also used to describe jewels shaped like wasps, bees or flies. First coined by Boucheron, “hymenoptera” jewels typically combined a gem-set body with wings made out of gold mesh brilliantly set with diamonds.
By the 1950’s and ’60s, the popularity of bees, along with its fellow flying insects, had returned to levels not seen since the Victorian era. Inventive brooches by leading jewelry firms such as Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and Mauboussin had bees flying and crawling on shoulders, lapels, and in hair. Towards the later half of the 20th century, the bee motif famously buzzed its way into the designs of Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co, who continues to produce his ‘Bee’ designs today.
Over time, the bee’s popularity has ebbed and flowed in fashion but has always been a beloved motif in jewelry. Today, bees and their geometric-patterned honeycomb continue to inspire contemporary jewelers much like they did the designers of decades past. Fittingly, yellow gold is the perfect vehicle to portray the warm hued honey and the yellow shades of the bee’s body, decorated with enamel, diamonds and a variety of other precious materials. As for me, I happen to love the jeweled honey bees of both the past and the present.
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