For those of you who know a lot about photography, I also have a question, behind the cut.
I pierced the wings with a sharps needle after steaming them for five minutes, and then attached them and the gold to a piece of felt-backed silk using invisible nylon thread. The gold is Kreinik #7 Japan Gold.
For some reason, once the camera *completely* focuses on the wings, it levels out the glare that makes the goldwork sparkle. In person, there are a lot more highlights. The first photo is just a tiny hair out of focus, and so it still has the light - but it tends to go away once it really locks in. Anybody know if there's a setting or something I can adjust? I tried taking a few on manual with a variety of settings, but it still auto-focuses, and does the same thing. The best images I was able to get, were outdoors in full sun - indoors, or outdoors in shade, were even more flat.
Using the flash wipes out most of the gold. It picks up a few sparkles, but most of it seems to blend into the red ground.
At certain angles, the beetle wings shift color - they can go toward an almost coppery orange, all the way to a blue purple.
The beetle wing color is actually made by irridescence, rather than pigment. The wings are about as strong as a fingernail; they can break with bending, but are fairly tough against scratching.