Maquech beetles have been around for hundreds of years and continue to fascinate and disturb in equal measures. The Maquech beetle is a large, docile, black beetle found in Mexico which for centuries has been used as ‘living jewellery’. The beetle is adorned with gold and semi-precious stones, the shell of the beetle is pierced and a small safety chain is attached to the live beetle allowing the beetle to crawl around whilst being tethered to the chest of the wearer.
The trend is thought to originate in Mayan culture. During the 8th and 9th century Mayan women wore Maquech beetles pinned to their chests, over their hearts, to attract and sustain loving relationships. The story in folklore leading to this belief is one of a Mayan princess who was not able to marry a prince of a rival clan whom she loved dearly. She stopped eating and drinking preferring to die than to live without her lover. In compassion with her plight a healer with magical powers transformed her into a Maquech beetle, so that she could spend the rest of her life living as a beautiful brooch on the chest of her lover, close to his heart.