I collect jewelry of all sorts, origins, and materials. One of my favorite pieces is this blue morpho butterfly wing pendant (see Blue Morpho Video below).
As a gemologist and overall curious person I wanted to know how the wings of this genus of butterfly developed into a metallic, ultra blue color, and to know why the hue changed when viewed from different directions. I’ve had people mistake the pendant for labradorite and when I tell them it’s a butterfly wing, the imminent question is, “How is it blue?” Interestingly the blue on the wing is not a pigment and the wing is not actually blue. In fact nature rarely produces blue in plants & animals. Instead, the blue comes from the wings structure; it’s rows upon rows of scales that overlap on ridges at the nano level. The ridges are Christmas tree-shaped and have interlocking branches. When light hits the wing, it reflects from inside the ridge causing an interference of light waves that cancels out some colors and re-enforces others, specifically and mostly vibrantly is the broad color range of blues and also some green.
Light is measured in nanometers (nm) and visible light is 390-700nm, which is the full spectrum of colors. Blue light is in the 400-480nm range. Research indicates the blue morpho butterfly scales are 200nm apart and because the distance between the scales is half the wavelength of blue light, the broad blue range of color prevails. Adding to its dominance is melanin, which is the base of the Christmas tree. It absorbs all other light.
Blue morpho butterflies are found in the tropics and it’s the males who exhibit the most brilliant hues and sheen. The lifespan of a blue morpho is about 4 months after which time their wings are often collected, sold, and made into beautiful and favored pieces of jewelry or pinned as part of a collection and framed. Butterfly specimens and jewelry, such as my pendant, can last indefinitely.
Nature often inspires science. The microscopic structure of the blue morpho butterfly wing has been researched for use against counterfeit money by NanoTech Security Corp to prove that vibrant color can be produced without using pigments or dyes.
Disclaimer: I do not claim all the photos posted on this site. If you see an image that belongs to you, please contact me by leaving a comment below and let me know. I will either give the correct credit or take it down.