Located in the historic Pike Place Market, Isadora’s has specialized in exquisite antique jewelry for 38 years. Our discriminating collection includes pieces from the early 1800’s through the 1950’s, without a reproduction to be found. Our precious pieces are sent to North American Gem Lab for independent appraisals. We invite you to call our toll free number for applicable discounts. On many of our pieces, we are able to offer between 10-25% off of appraisal value.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Butterflies: Love’s Beauty

A friend enraptured with a new ring on her much bejeweled finger – a bold Victorian piece shaped like a butterfly queried me about the symbolism of butterflies in the Victorian era. I was in a rush and I said something glib about metamorphosis: caterpillars to butterflies: A creature both beautiful and fleeting. But the question sat with me. I remembered a Persian play I’d been extremely moved by 7 or 8 years ago in which a butterfly came to symbolize humanity and its struggle. I see a number of plays but I remember this play’s imagery so well for its aching beauty. And so two weeks later I return to the topic of butterflies and their symbolism having reflected and most importantly researched.

The butterfly as symbol re-occurs in many cultures, as do the ideas it symbolizes, primarily the soul, love and rebirth. In the tales of ancient Greeks we learn that cupid turned psyche into a butterfly and thus the word for butterfly is “psyche”: The psyche being soul and mind. The Romans also saw the butterfly as symbolically attached to the soul but it’s meaning grows even richer, for to the Romans the soul is the place where love originates from.
Traveling to China I learn that in Chinese culture two butterflies flying together became a symbol for love and in Japanese culture we return again to the soul. A butterfly is seen to be the personification of the soul: living, dying or dead. And yet again the intertwining of the soul and love: A beautiful Japanese superstition is the belief that if you find a butterfly in your guestroom perched behind a bamboo screen, the person you love most in the world is coming to see you.

And so I finally arrive at the Victorian era from whence it all began. A very Christian era when it comes to European jewelry the butterfly has a very Christian meaning. The butterfly this time symbolizes Christ’s rebirth for as the butterfly journeys through three stages—caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly so Christ experienced life, death and resurrection. (On an interesting and almost connected side note, during the Victorian era flies and moths symbolized the heart and soul hovering dangerously close to love’s flame.) And my last meaning in my obsessive quest for the heart of the butterflies meaning, art nouveau jewelers believe, simply put, butterflies were a metaphor for love’s beauty.
I now realize the butterfly is as beautifully complex symbolically as it is visually. Pick your own meaning.

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