Insects have always been used more or less in decoration, especially in Brazil, where the richly-colored beetles of the country are affected as articles of personal adornment. Recently in a Union Square jewelry store a monster beetle was on exhibition, having been sent there for repairs. It was alive, and about its body was a delicate gold band, locked with a minute padlock; a gold chain attached it to the shawl of the owner. Sometimes they are worn upon the headgear, their slow, cumbersome movements preventing them from attracting great attention. They are valued at from $50 to $100 apiece. Snakes, the rich green variety so common in New England, are worn by some ladies as bracelets, while the gorgeous reptiles are often imitated in gold and silver, with eyes of diamonds, rubies, or black pearls. Gold bears are the proper thing now for pins. In the East the chameleon is often worn as a head ornament, the animal rarely moving, and forming at least a picturesque decoration, with its odd shape and sculptured outlines. Various other reptiles, as small turtles, alligators, etc., are pressed into service. The curious soldier-crab has been used as a pin.
Placed in a box with a rich pearly shell prepared for the purpose, it will change houses, and then, secured by a gold or silver chain, roams about the wearer, waving its red and blue claws in a warlike manner. Birds are, perhaps, more commonly used as natural ornaments than any other, and a cloak of the skins of humming birds is one of the most magnificent objects to be imagined. One, of a rare species, was once sold in Europe for $5,000. Single birds are often worth $700 or $800. A cloak of the skin of the great auk would bring $8,000 or $10,000. Some of the most beautiful pheasants are extremely valuable--worth their weight in gold. Tiger claws are used in the decoration of hats, and are extremely valuable and hard to obtain.
Within ten years the alligator has become an important factor to the artistic manufacturer. The hide, by a new process, is tanned to an agreeable softness and used in innumerable ways. The most costly bags and trunks are made from it; pocket-books, card-cases, dining-room chairs are covered with it, and it has been used as a dado on the library wall of a well-known naturalist. It makes an excellent binding for certain books. Among fishes the shark provides a skin used in a variety of ways. The shagreen of the shark's ray is of great value. Canes are made of the shark's backbone, the interstices being filled with silver or shell plates. Shark's teeth are used to decorate the weapons of various nations. The magnificent scales, nearly four inches across and tipped with seemingly solid silver, of the giant herring, are used, while scales of many of the tribe have long been used in the manufacture of artificial pearls.