These two bugs are from the 1920s. They are not made of precious materials, their wings are made of celluloid an early form of plastic and the legs are gilt metal. Paste stones have been added to the head and legs to add glamour and make them sparkle. Bugs and insects have long been a popular theme in jewellery but after the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922 there was a revival. During the 1920s Egyptian influences were widespread, not only in jewellery but also in fashion and furniture. In Tutankhamun’s tomb they found some jewellery but it is thought much had already been looted by tomb robbers by the time Carter arrived. The ‘scarab’ beetle was a recurring emblem in the jewellery and it is from this that the resurgence of ‘bug’ jewellery developed.
A Scarab ornament from Tutankhamun’s tomb
In the antechamber of Tutankhamun’s tomb was found a large ebony box; inside was an ivory casket. The lid of the casket read ‘Gold rings for the funeral procession’ – there were no gold rings inside the casket, but there was a winged scarab jewel.
A poster advertising ‘Egyptian Fancy Dress Costumes’ from the 1920s: fancy dress parties were very popular at this time.
And an appliqué embroidered Egyptian silk coat from the late 1920s, made for the elite tourist trade, a popular purchase for those on the Grand Tour, quite a souvenir to bring home and show off where you had been on your travels.
I bought both these bug brooches from the same dealer but five years apart. I regularly go to the Art Deco Fair held at Eltham Palace. The green bug was bought in 2012 and the red bug in 2017. If you are wondering how I know this, well, with a collection of over 800 brooches I have to have a way of keeping track. I have over the years developed a detailed catalogue. Each brooch I own is allocated a unique catalogue number so I can track back exactly where and when I bought it.