Nov 15, 2023
Bees Return as a Popular Jewelry Motif
Advertisement Supported by The insects, which have been a popular motif throughout time, are popular once again. By Jessica Bumpus Reporting from London Dan Dower wants to change our attitude toward
The insects, which have been a popular motif throughout time, are popular once again.
By Jessica Bumpus
Reporting from London
Dan Dower wants to change our attitude toward bees.
“Part of the message is making people trust bees,” said Mr. Dower, who is one half of the jewelry brand Dower & Hall. “Be friendly towards bees. See them as friends, not as just things that sting.”
This spring the brand introduced a Queen Bee necklace, a circular pendant stamped with the insect. And through August, all proceeds will go to the Bee Friendly Trust, which works to increase habitats for bees in Britain.
“The bee has become such an emotive thing,” said Mr. Dower in an interview at the brand’s studio in the Clapham neighborhood. He said it “certainly has a lot of resonance for different reasons for different people.”
In jewelry, that does seem to be the case.
This year marks the 16th anniversary of the original bumblebee necklace from the London-based jeweler Alex Monroe.
The piece, which looks as if an actual bee was coated with silver or gold and hung on a chain, has since spawned five more versions — and as a result, Mr. Monroe noted, “quite often people say, ‘Oh, you’re the bee man’.” Prices start at 135 pounds ($172).
He said he had been inspired by the work of the German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder, particularly “Cupid Complaining to Venus,” which shows Cupid being stung by bees. Mr. Monroe said the bee, in that instance, “was this motif of it being the inevitable pain of love and of passion” and he was interested in the idea of turning on its head what he felt to be a very British symbol that was “on the cutesy side of things.”
The French, in contrast, associate the bee with Napoleon, who used it as his imperial emblem. The Paris jewelry house Chaumet, too, has employed the motif since the early 19th century — and, in 2011, it introduced the Bee My Love collection, and added to the line in June of this year diamond versions of a toi et moi ring, which includes two stones; an asymmetric earring set; and a stickpin brooch.
The bee motif in jewelry can be traced back to the Minoans and Egyptians, according to Helen Molesworth, senior curator of jewelry at the Victoria & Albert Museum — with another surge in popularity in the 19th century and, again, today.
“Its early association with royalty,” she wrote in an email, “has perhaps now been overtaken by the more ecological and environmental associations of our society’s relationship with nature, and how we should be looking after it. Almost an inversion of its meaning.”
Mr. Dower said that link to nature was something he had long wanted to foster by adding a bee to the Dower & Hall line, and he was spurred last year by the death of his father, who had been active in environmental organizations and was a beekeeper.
In January, Mr. Dower began to design the pendant, doing three iterations with a mix of computer-aided design and bench work before landing on the final look. It is made of recycled sterling silver or yellow gold vermeil, with chains that are a maximum of 18 inches or 22 inches; prices start at £125, or $163 in the United States.
Mr. Dower said he was “trying to create tactile treasures that people can make a connection to, a personal connection to.”