Porcupine quills have been used in jewelry, weapons, and items for the home for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The porcupine, a slow-moving creature, who uses his quills to defend himself can have up to 30,000 on his back, making them a readily available source of decoration, provided that you know how to extract them!
The Native Americans were the most ardent users, softening the quills to weave them into leatherwork and basketry. The traditional mohawk headdress, called a porky roach (I lie not), was actually based off the raised quills of a defensive porcupine. The quills were also used in jewelry and detail work for jackets and shirts. With the easy availability of beads, however, these traditional materials fell out of use, so that any type of porcupine quill decorations are fairly rare today.
I recently purchased this beautiful beetlewing necklace at the fantastic Erie Basin in Red Hook. While most people are under the misapprehension that I’m wearing a chain full of Lee Press-On Nails (probably because I would wear a chain full of Lee Press-On Nails-DIY project!), they are actually the hind wings of Buprestidae beetles, otherwise known as jewel beetles or metallic wood-boring beetles. Used in Asian decorative arts since the 1900s, they are being introduced awesomely in modern pieces by designers like Claire Angel (www.claireangel.com) or Skullbag on Etsy.
But beetles aren’t the only iridescent animals that lend their beauty to jewelry. Starlings, peacocks, and morpho butterflies all share that brilliant sheen. I have fantastical dreams of a statement necklace with all of them together!