Since 2008, when she moved to Los Angeles and made her first insect-inspired jewel, a stag beetle necklace, Daniela Villegas has transformed the creatures that slither, fly and crawl among us into rarefied 18k gold jewels studded with precious gems and beloved by tastemakers the world over.
“When I moved here, it was time to reinvent myself,” says the Mexico City-born designer. “I started with feathers, and six months later, I launched the insects. They’re a perfect canvas for all the stones I use.”
Whether it’s a stag beetle ring carrying an enormous sphene (a rare green gem described by some jewelers as “peridot on acid”); a tadpole necklace adorned with tourmalines, garnets, sapphires and emeralds; or shark earrings set with iridescent opals, the jewels in Villegas’s oeuvre represent fantastical versions of the species she has long admired for their “beautiful renewal energy.”
“It’s not that I use the real insect and make a mold,” she explains. “I make the proportions a bit chubby so I’m able to use more stones or make them more friendly. I didn’t want to create something Gothic—to the contrary, I wanted to create something happy.”