The Belle Epoque was the last real period when it was the fashion to show off your family treasures. Victorian ladies would scatter jewelled animals and insects such as snakes, lizards, butterflies and dragonflies across the lace on a hat or veil.

The Victorians’ passion for such jewelled creatures can be seen as a way of expressing sentiment. The metamorphic animals in particular were popular as love tokens – they refer to the transforming effect of love.
These brooches were really the forerunners of modern costume jewellery. Today, they would be considered as “fun jewellery”: they are a joy to wear.

Many of them have become very collectable and as a result quite rare and valuable. Their value lies not only in their uniqueness but also in the craftsmanship of the settings – intricate settings that can no longer be made up economically today due to the high cost of labour.
Examples of the “language of fauna”:

Both the butterfly and dragonfly stand for beauty arising out of inertia or a dormant state, such as the seemingly lifeless cocoon. The frog is an ancient symbol of great fecundity and has been a popular love token since Elizabethan times. The snake is a powerful symbol of eternity, especially when swallowing its own tail (known as the ouroboros, it represents the “round of existence”).The branching antlers of the stag refer to the tree of life.