Living Insect Larvae Build This Artist's Jewelry (Video)

From mushroom death suits to clothing that's grown in a vat of green tea and bacteria, there's a lot to discover in the wild world of sustainable fashion, blurring the line between product and biology.

Similarly, one usually doesn't think of insects when it comes to jewelry, but for almost three decades now, French artist Hubert Duprat has made stunning precious pieces that are actually created by the natural building behaviour of the Caddisfly larvae (Trichoptera).

Called "underwater architects," Caddisflies are a common aquatic species of insect that collect natural, substrate materials like sand, gravel, leaves and twigs to build protective shells around their bodies, using silk excreted from salivary glands near their mouths to hold it all together (as seen below, au naturel).

Caddisfly larva with pebble case in Thornton Creek, early Summer 2007, Seattle, WA, USA.

Ashley Pond V/CC BY-SA 2.0

Duprat, who first witnessed this incredible insect behaviour while visiting gold prospectors working in a river, wondered what the insects might construct if there was only gold available. He thus began to experiment by collecting larvae and gently removing their shells in the controlled environment of his studio. By offering the isolated larvae only gold, pearls and precious stones like sapphires and rubies, Duprat was able to harvest one-of-a-kind jewelry, created by these insects.

Says Duprat, who is careful to present the ongoing project as a collaboration (although he has supposedly patented the technique in 1983):

The work is a collaborative effort between me and the caddis larvae. I create the conditions necessary for the caddis to display their talents. I create situations. I'm a bit like an architect who has builders carry out his work.

Aethestically, these are gorgeous, naturally-constructed objects, but philosophically, raises even more questions -- after all, who's the real creator here and can this natural process really be patented? More over at Cabinet.