During the Victorian Era, it was popular for women to wear live beetles that they tethered to their clothing with tiny chains. The tether would keep the beetles from escaping, and their six grippy little legs would keep them from falling off the wearer (see the photo of me wearing a cockroach for evidence). These beetles could be left unadorned, as was the case with many of the colorful and exotic specimens brought back from the far edges of the British Colonies, or they could be adorned with jewels, fabric, and even tiny mirrors. The beetles would be fed and kept in a terrarium until it was time to be worn again.
The trend still exists today, with some beetles doing double duty as tiny pets and jewelry in some areas of India, Mexico and Central America. While it’s not illegal to wear a beetle (except if that beetle is a protect species, then any messing about with it is illegal), it is illegal to bring a live beetle from another country back into the United States (thanks, Kelly, for the link!). Illegalities aside, as someone who spent many years covered in insect poop, I don’t recommend it. But I can show you how to make (a fake) one.
What you’ll need
- A beetle pin. The flashier the better
- A small pin to tether the beetle with (a safety pin or something snazzier if you prefer)
- Jump rings
- Chain (length of tether up to you)
- Glue (I recommend E6000 as a good craft glue that dries with more flexibility than superglue)
Step 1: Find a beetle pin. To stay true to the Victorian fashion, the more colorful and blinged out, the better. Ideally, you want this pin to have a hole in the design that you can attach a jump ring to.
Step 2: Attach a jump ring to the beetle pin. If you pin doesn’t have any hole to put a jump ring through, you can either glue one end of your chain directly onto the beetle (see the CU Museum specimen), or glue a jump ring to the beetle (as seen in the butterfly pin in my example).
Step 3: Attach a length of chain to the jump ring on the beetle pin. This is the tether, and would have made sure the beetle stayed on a Victorian woman’s clothing. If you glued a jump ring onto your beetle pin, attach the chain via another jump ring (so it goes jump ring on the beetle – jump ring – chain) to put as little stress on the glued jump ring as possible.
Step 4: Attach the other end of a chain to the pin you’ll use to attach the beetle to your clothing. A safety pin will do just fine, but if you want something slightly fancier, find another pin to use. Try to match the pin (safety or otherwise) to the beetle and chain so it looks like one cohesive piece.
Step 5: Wear your Roaming Beetle! The point of this jewelry was that the beetle would move all over its wearer, as far as the tether would let it, so go nuts! I’m a big fan of having it looking like it’s trying to crawl over your shoulder or into your pocket.
P.S. This project would work with any insect, but I did beetles because I’m a historically accurate nerd like that.
P.P.S. I also like to arrange mine so it looks the beetle is flying a butterfly-shaped kite.