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Charmed: Annina Vogel’s Bugs, Bees and Butterflys

Vintage jewelry expert Annina Vogel explores the Second British Empire's effect on Victorian jewelry

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The Victorian era sparked a new zeal for discovery and exploration — the rise of the Second British Empire introduced the East India Company to Asia, Britain’s control of southern Africa, dangerous treks down the Congo River, as well as the incredible career of humanist Charles Darwin. Newly-identified animals and insects found themselves documented in novel ways.  Suddenly jewelers looked to nature for design whilst the royals, like the Victorian’s Queen Victoria herself, led the way by wearing eye-catching insects on their frocks.

Victorians did not consider jewelry as mere decorative objects but as vehicles to convey symbolic messages from the giver to the wearer. Magnificent insect pieces are a nod to the Victorian fascination with exotic creatures and newly-discovered wildlife. Bugs like these, with their detail and jewel-like allure, made the perfect love token; the elegant bug symbolising ethereal natural beauty in the wearer. Rose-cut diamonds denote strength and longevity in love, while little ruby eyes referred to passionate feelings in romance (perhaps even a cheeky wink to the giver of the jewellery’s intentions) whilst the pearls in contrast, meant purity and innocence. Queen Victoria herself loved to wear bejewelled bugs.

The amazing, almost gravity-defying dragonfly represents prosperity, strength, harmony and clarity, with 360-degree vision and a speed of 45 miles per hour you can see why!  Look at the majestic bee set on a diamond line bracelet:  it certainly was the Queen of the Hive with royal drama of diamonds (representing longevity) and the cabochon sapphire, holding court as the central stone, representing truth, sincerity and consistency.

Most precious was the beautiful rose-cut diamond butterfly — for a Victorian, this was an aesthetically sweet romantic gift. The diamond-flecked butterfly could be regarded as a simple gift… until recognizing how this butterfly also symbolises the soul and resurrection through its metamorphosis and emergence from the chrysalis. The solitaire ruby in its center is the stone for passionate romance. This, along with the rose-cut diamonds, representing strength and longevity in love hints at a deeper message of heartfelt adoration underneath its pretty exterior.  True love, like the butterfly’s life cycle, has its own metamorphosis, transforming into something real, sometimes fragile… yet always beautiful.