Let Nature Inspire – Thing that fly

Sally Thornton Jewellery blog on flying inspiration at thorntons jewellers kettering northampton

Flying Inspiration - Birds, Butterflies, Bees and other Insects

This month we take a look at other greatly loved motifs used in jewellery design. Every year jewellers create variations on natures theme and none more so than insects, birds and butterflies that continue to inspire artists past and present.

Butterflies were by far the most popular insect; they were featured on tiny pins in the 1890’s worn under the hair or tucked away into the folds of bows and lace. The delicate butterfly pin illustrated is a lovely example of this with its opal body and pearl wings.

Butterflies in general were considered a sign of good luck and ancient cultures believed that butterflies flying free after their earthbound existence symbolize the soul and are used as the main subject on many items of jewellery. The Edwardian silver butterfly hair piece made in 1905 would have been stunning to wear – but I think hard to keep in place!

The pre loved large silver butterfly brooch looks quite beautiful on a dark background and the design uses several different materials – ruby, pearl, silver, enamel and marcasite.

Dragonflies were also a favourite motif and feature in art nouveau, particularly by Rene Lalique who created fabulous jewellery using plique-a-jour enamel. This dramatic technique is still used today by one of our current designers.

 Other insects’ including the bee was very fashionable possibly because it was the emblem of the Bonapartes in the 1860’s the bee symbolizing the family’s dedication to determination and hard work. The bee has always been a favourite for designers because its shape and distinctive markings as we can see from this bee pendant.

 Marcasite originally was used as far back as the Georgian period and then re introduced in the 1920’s. Current designs in marcasite which take inspiration from the past include these lovely bird brooches which have a hint of colour in enamel.


For a time, sporting jewellery was very in vogue in the 1880’s – which included brooches for the ladies and stickpins for gentlemen. Birds of all descriptions were adapted into a stick pin indeed I have just sold a gold pheasant one.

Scottish designer Linda Macdonald loves using birds and animals in her work. The ‘Starry Night’ collection is inspired by the birds at the end of the family garden and are all created by hand in her workshop in Cardross.

Silver designs featured include the hummingbird pendant with the little heart and matching earrings.

Bar brooches appeared in the 1890’s and ‘novelty wildlife’ brooches became very popular. The little bar brooch set with two little mother of pearl ducks has always intrigued me and given to me by my father. I have no history of the piece, other than it being dated as 1875, but I can only assume the former owner enjoyed wearing it as much as I do.

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