7 Pieces of Animal-Inspired Jewelry From the American Museum of Natural History's Halls of Gems and Minerals

Animal-inspired jewelry at the American Museum of Natural History.
Animal-inspired jewelry at the American Museum of Natural History. / D. Finnin/©American Museum of Natural History

On June 12, 2021, the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals will reopen at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City following a four-year renovation. In addition to showcasing many of the geological specimens museum guests remember, the halls will feature exciting new displays. That includes Beautiful Creatures, an exhibition of jewelry inspired by animals.

Jewelry historian and museum curator Marion Fasel selected objects that pay homage to the natural world in luxurious style. Each animal depicted in the Beautiful Creatures exhibit in the Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery is highlighted elsewhere in the museum. All the jewelry was made within the last 150 years—the same amount of time the museum has been open. Dazzling snakes, insects, and crocodiles are a few of the items in the collection.

Beautiful Creatures will be on view through September 19. Here are some notable pieces of animal jewelry guests can expect to see when the Halls of Gems and Minerals reopen this month.

1. Crocodile Necklace

Nils Herrmann, Cartier Collection © Cartier

This crocodile necklace is made from 60.02 carats of yellow diamonds and 66.86 carats of emeralds. It comes from the collection of Mexican actress María Félix. According to legend, she commissioned it in 1975 after strolling into Cartier jewelers carrying live baby crocodiles to act as the models.

2. Étoile de Mer Brooch

Jake Armour, Armour Photography

This brooch was made by artist Salvador Dalí, and his surrealist style is apparent in the design. Random twigs can be seen sprouting between the starfish's legs. The butterfly pins were meant to be worn with the starfish brooch. This item was originally owned by philanthropist Rebekah Harkness, who Taylor Swift fans may know as the subject of the song “The Last Great American Dynasty.”

3. Tarantula Brooch

D. Finnin/©American Museum of Natural History

Between 1979 and 1996, the German firm Hemmerle produced a line of animal-inpsired jewelry; this tarantula brooch comes from that series. The 111.76-carat brown horse conch pearl making up the rear of the object is possibly the largest one on Earth.

4. Lion's Paw Shell Brooch

Courtesy of Stephen Webster

This lion's paw shell brooch is made from real lion's paw scallops Duke Fulco di Verdura purchased from the American Museum of Natural History's gift shop in 1940. A second shell brooch made by the Italian designer is also featured in the Beautiful Creatures exhibit.

5. Stag Beetle Brooch


Made in 1895 by the Boucheron jewelry company, this beetle brooch contains diamonds, rubies, gold, and white gold.

6. Serpent Choker

FD Gallery

After it was designed by American jeweler Joel Arthur Rosenthal in 1990, this snake choker was acquired by French actress Jacqueline Delubac. It features sapphires, diamonds, and amethysts set in silver and gold.

7. Lion Brooch

© Sotheby’s

This lion brooch once belonged to philanthropist Brooke Astor. Astor was a benefactor of the New York Public Library, which has led some to believe that the piece was inspired by the lion statues outside the entrance of the main branch.