Frequent forum-goers may have seen a post I made asking for materials/ process advice. I was interested in gilding an item from my childhood insect collection so that it could be worn as a pendant, but wasn't sure about the best way to achieve this. Without the equipment to 3D print a replica (a good suggestion) and nervous about damaging the original, I decided to experiment with a new specimen I wasn't emotionally invested in to get a feel for the gilding medium and experiment with fortifying insects for use in jewelry.
In this Ible I'll be showing you how to relax a dried insect specimen and re-pose it to your liking, then show you the process I used to prepare and gild it for jewelry use.There's good info here for those interested in both true entomology and craft, so feel free to page through the steps to find the processes most relevant to you.
If you plan to this process all the way through gilding, I recommend working with an insect that is primarily made of a hard exoskeleton. Beetles will provide you with the most structurally sound surface area. Some wasps and spiders may be suitable, though their delicate limbs could be problematic. Squishy, meaty things like caterpillars are definitely not going to be a good fit for this project, as they do not leave an exoskeleton behind when they dry. Very hairy specimens are also not a good fit for gilding (sorry...no tarantula jewelry)
While you can definitely use the relaxing and drying techniques for moths and butterflies, I do not recommend trying to guild them because they're too delicate to remain intact during the process.
Purchased specimens --I went to a local entomology shop and chose this rhino beetle (exact species unknown) for it's size and durability. If you're looking for a good mail order source, a friend of mine recommended this place highly. They have a huge selection and very fair pricing.
FYI, even though purchased specimens are commercially prepared, they may be a little dirty and will almost definitely stink (this beetle STUNK). I mean, it is a dead thing. Delicate cleaning can be achieved with a moistened Q tip. That smell is not going to go away until we coat the insect with something.
Collected Specimens -- Collecting insects is a fun hobby that I really enjoyed as a kid. As an adult, however, I guess my views about life have changed and I would never catch something and kill it in a jar anymore. Not judging anyone who does use a kill jar --I totally get it, I just choose not to do it anymore and thus would only use things I find that are already dead.
If you prefer to work with found post mortem specimens, scout your environment for insect that have already passed and dried. Remember to look underneath objects in your garden or garage. Praying mantises in particular seem to favor hanging upside down from low places (like under a dumpster or fence gate) right before they die. Be delicate with any specimens you find as they are likely to be brittle.
NOTE: Before bringing outdoor insects into your home, make sure they are free of smaller pests (ants, maggots, mites) that may have been feeding on the organic material left inside the exoskeleton).