As I sit here writing this, there’s a loud whirring sound all around me, like there’s a looming alien spaceship preparing for landing (except it just keeps circling and never. Ever. Lands).
No, I’m not hallucinating, and if you’re anywhere on the East Coast currently dominated by the cicada swarm known as Brood X, neither are you.
These ginormous bugs are loud, they’re clumsy, they’re messy, and they’re abundant. It’s only every 17 years (thank goodness) that they erupt from the ground in this large a quantity, and 2021 is one of those years.
They’ve made it difficult to enjoy any time outdoors—though they’re largely harmless, their inexperience with flying means they’ll end up in your hair, on your arms and legs, and all over your patio and every other surface. They fall from trees, they pee everywhere (yes, this is true—don’t stand under the trees!), they leave their exoskeletons lying about, and their ooey-gooey bodies end up squished on every inch of the sidewalks (if you think that sounds appetizing, you won’t be able to resist the chocolate-covered cicadas local chefs are peddling!).
The other night, my 3-year-old woke up screaming that there was a cicada in her bed (there wasn’t)—they can, it seems, even induce nightmares. So yes, many of us are currently living in a cicada-made version of hell.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised by the reaction I got from friends and colleagues when I posted a request on social media for cicada jewelry. While most of the responses were ones of outright disgust (fair), others were downright hilarious, expressing concerns for my health and safety and wondering why I would possibly want to feature anything to do with cicadas.
Here’s the thing, though: Before the cicada swarm happened, I was curious about it, almost anticipated it. A photo of a singular cicada wasn’t disgusting, it was rather beautiful.
I quite like the presence of the occasional cicada in the summer. Its rattling trill coming from the trees brings to mind hot, sticky days, ones best spent sipping iced tea in the shade of a garden or front porch, or splashing in a pool. It’s a welcome sound that signals summertime in the South, and that is a wonderful thing.
Anything in a large enough quantity would be terrible—“too much of a good thing,” they say. Whether or not cicadas are “good” is debatable, depending on your affinity for insects, but our outright disgust with the creatures, though potentially justifiable at the moment, is likely a result of their current population—I think we might look at dragonflies and even butterflies differently if they were strewn about in such a chaotic way.
There are those that see the beauty in the cicada. Our Amy Elliott shared the story of Swedish jewelry artist Märta Mattsson’s recent collection made with actual cicada wings. The kicker? It’s gorgeous.
There are other jewelers that see their beauty, too. And it isn’t just aesthetics: The cicada is said to represent resurrection, immortality, and personal change. The cicadas’ 17-year cycle, after all, is a story of hope and resilience.
And really, what creepy crawler doesn’t benefit from a bejeweled makeover? I, a self-professed arachnophobe, have even considered purchasing some especially gorgeous spider jewelry.
So I appreciate these jewels all the more, and though maybe this isn’t surprising, there isn’t exactly a ton of them out there—a fact that makes them almost more desirable, given their scarcity. While I’m not currently shouting from the rooftops the joys of living at ground zero of cicada land, I do think many of us will look back at this summer in a year or two and remember—perhaps even appreciate!—the strange phenomenon of nature that kept us from enjoying the outdoors for a month (or more?). At least, until another 17 years have passed.
Top: Cicada brooch in 18k yellow gold with 4.47 ct. Ethiopian opal, 0.53 ct. t.w. pear-shape brown diamonds, and 2.36 cts. t.w. brown diamonds, $22,000; Cicada Jewelry
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