Designing Jewelry from Vintage Items

© by Rena Klingenberg; all rights reserved.

I love designing jewelry from vintage items – incorporating neat old stuff into my current jewelry creations.

Antique keys can be used marvelously in all kinds of jewelry designs.

This melding of modern techniques with items from yesteryear results in wonderfully unique jewelry that (depending on the elements used) can feel romantic, gothic, kitschy, or iconic – and people of all ages are attracted to it.

These “repurposed vintage” designs are usually handmade and one-of-a-kind – so customers sense that if they fall in love with one of these pieces, they’d better buy it now.

Parts and pieces from old typewriters and adding machines are popular for this kind of jewelry.

So what types of vintage items make good jewelry components, and where can you get them?

A Treasure Hunt for
Vintage Jewelry Components

Naturally if you want to make wearable jewelry, it’s a good idea to use elements that are sufficiently small and lightweight to be worn comfortably.

Vintage buttons come in all kinds of sizes, colors, and shapes – and are usually just the right size for jewelry!

And while you’re hunting for items you can use, look beyond what most people see.

Especially consider vintage items that don’t have anything to do with jewelry.

Also look for items you could take apart, and use the parts.

Similarly, look carefully for possibilities in broken items – can you use any parts of them in a jewelry project?

Vintage photos, letters, and postcards can be photocopied, scanned, or reproduced in other ways so you won’t have to cut up the original for your jewelry project.

Vintage Items that
Work Well in Jewelry

  • antique keys
  • postage stamps
  • old photos
  • bits of old letters or postcards
  • pictures clipped from vintage magazines or catalogs
  • old jewelry you can take apart for clasps, lockets, stampings, beads, etc.
  • typewriter / adding machine parts
  • scraps of lace, ribbon, or fabric
  • antique buttons
  • game pieces
  • vintage sewing supplies
  • old clocks and watches, taken apart – gears, etc.
  • small appliances, taken apart
  • small toys, dolls, or the parts of them
  • small vintage travel souvenirs
  • antique spoons or other silverware
  • crocheted doilies
  • tiny containers – bottles, tins, etc.
  • bottle caps
  • Crackerjack prizes or cereal-box toys
  • pieces from old tools or equipment
  • medical, dental, and optical supplies
  • old eyeglasses
  • marbles
  • baby items
  • sentimental occasion items – wedding favors, anniversary items
  • shards of china, pottery, or glassware.

Broken pottery shards can make lovely, unique jewelry.

Where to Find
Cool Vintage Items for Your
Jewelry Designs

See Finding Vintage Items for Jewelry Making – where and how to source wonderful old odds and ends to use for designing jewelry from vintage items.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Be the first to know the newest secrets
of making and selling jewelry...

free subscription to Jewelry Business Success News


  1. Pat Watson says:

    I saw your post about remaking the vintage long bead necklace into 3 projects for your customer. How much do you charge for something like that?? Hourly rate?? By the piece or what determines your compensation?

  2. Hi Pat! For projects where I’m using the customer’s components, I charge for my time plus whatever additional components and packaging I provide.

  3. nani kalthoff says:

    so glad I found you.Just started working on repurposing old jewelry.Wanted to know what size of wire I use for attaching broaches to a silver chain bracelet,and how to attach earings and broches to the bracelet.What is the best glue to use .Thank you nani

  4. Ok, I need some ideas on how to use broken pottery pieces for jewelry. I have been saving my broken pottery for another craft project,but I would love to use to make jewelry. They are beautiful pieces.

  5. Yvonne, I have used pottery shards many times. I think the easiest way to incorporate these is to wire wrap it. I have also foiled and soldered them for brooches, makes it easy to solder the pin back onto it also. One word of caution, if you do this use lead free solder.

  6. Pam,
    I have a broken plate from Spain that I loved and have kept, hoping I could use it in jewelry making somehow. I also just bought a small rock tumbler at a garage sale. Should I be tumbling the pieces of pottery to help round them off before using them to make jewelry (either by wrapping or some other way)? I hadn’t used them yet because they are so sharp (which is why I jumped on the rock tumbler when I saw it).

  7. Hi! I always look forward to your messages. I need all the ideas and instructions I can receive. I am so excited about this email I read in your ideas about doing something about vintage items but I had no idea how. Thanks a MILLION Edna

  8. Edna, thanks for letting me know – that’s wonderful to hear! I’d love to see or hear about how your vintage inspiration turns out! 🙂

  9. Annie, I’d be reluctant to place a piece of pottery in a tumbler. You might find there’s nothing left when you open the tumbler. There’s is a machine you can use that grinds off the rough edges, and you are in control of the process! Practice with soft solder and a soldering gun w/ a reostat (control the heat settings). That, I think, looks the best for using shards in a jewelry piece. Plus the design isn’t covered up with wire wrapping. Best of luck!
    PS: there are books available devoted to this entire process. Check out

Share Your Thoughts


Subscribe without commenting