I first started making jewelry 10 years ago, when I was in the 8th grade. The cool girls were all wearing handmade, glass-bead charm bracelets, and I desperately wanted one. But they were expensive, and I was cheap. So I taught myself how to make my own—and nobody ever knew the difference. I was hooked. However, I soon discovered the reason for the bracelets' sky-high prices: The cost of jewelry-making quickly adds up (especially on a middle-school budget).
My solution: make jewelry out of jewelry. I look for vintage jewelry with good bones—heavy-duty clasps, metal chains, glass beads—at thrift stores, then disassemble it for parts. Most thrift stores charge no more than a dollar or two per piece, and each could yield enough parts for several projects.
For this bracelet, I raided my mom's stash of vintage jewelry. I simply cut two pieces of chain to the desired length (the size of my wrist), leaving a pre-existing clasp on the end of one chain. With pliers, I pried open the last link of one of the pieces of chain, and connected it to the final link of the other. Then, I attached charms from a handful of other pieces. Finally, I cut a slightly longer piece of vintage rhinestone chain, used E-6000 glue to attach jump rings to its ends, and wound it loosely around the two chains. (I attached the rhinestone chain's jump rings to the ends of the bracelet.) To give the clasp something to grasp, I attached an oval link from an old necklace to the end of the bracelet. All of this took me no more than an hour. Simple!
A few things to look for and consider when buying vintage jewelry:
- Charms attached with jump rings, rather than welded rings (you want to be able to remove them without cutting the ring)
- Heavy jewelry (weight is often a sign of quality)
- Prong-set rhinestones, instead of glued-on stones
|The spikes at each corner are prongs.|
- Clasps other than lobster clasps
|Lobster clasps = not vintage.|
- Don't fret over flaws. You're going to be disassembling the jewelry, so don't discount an item because of chips, broken pieces, etc. You may even be able to negotiate a bargain-bin price for such pieces. (Missing stones are the exception, as the you'll likely want to reuse embellished parts of the jewelry.)
- Stick to thrift stores. If you shop at antique stores, you're going to pay a premium for vintage jewelry. You're better off at thrift stores, where they aren't trained to distinguish between, say, Bakelite and 1990's plastic junk.