Members of the order Coleoptera are sometimes referred to as ‘living jewels’, in allusion to the strikingly diverse array of iridescence mechanisms and optical effects that have arisen in beetles. A number of novel and sophisticated reflectance mechanisms have been discovered in recent years, including three-dimensional photonic crystals and quasi-ordered coherent scattering arrays. However, the literature on beetle structural coloration is often redundant and lacks synthesis, with little interchange between the entomological and optical research communities. Here, an overview is provided for all iridescence mechanisms observed in Coleoptera. Types of iridescence are illustrated and classified into three mechanistic groups: multilayer reflectors, three-dimensional photonic crystals and diffraction gratings. Taxonomic and phylogenetic distributions are provided, along with discussion of the putative functions and evolutionary pathways by which iridescence has repeatedly arisen in beetles.