How to Make Steampunk Jewelry

by Rena Klingenberg.

How to Make Steampunk Jewelry

Steampunk jewelry often includes gears, cogs, and vintage watch parts as jewelry components.

Steampunk jewelry is a fun and fascinating style to work with. It combines vintage, hardware, imagination, gadgetry, and science fiction.

What is Steampunk?

It’s a fictional era that takes takes place during the British Victorian-Edwardian period – the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Sometimes there’s also a twist of 1800’s American Wild West theme thrown in.

Steampunk jewelry, fashions, and literature combine the best and most stylish elements of that period in history, and add a creative dose of science fiction / fantasy fun.

All of that may sound like a strange mix, but it really works together fantastically!

And although the steampunk genre began as a form of fiction, it’s evolved into a popular style to wear – and to make.

A clever setting of tiny antique gears and wheels distinguishes Violette Noble's Steampunk Cameo Brooch.

A clever setting of tiny antique gears and wheels distinguishes
Violette Noble’s Steampunk Cameo Brooch.

Steampunk Inspirations

Once you know the influences for this style, it’s easy to come up with fun components and designs for your own steampunk jewelry.

There’s lots of scope for creative embellishment!

Antiqued brass components like these lockets work well in mysterious steam-style designs.

Antiqued brass components like these lockets work well in mysterious steam-style designs.

The stories from this genre often involve the themes of

  • steam-powered technology (which is where the name comes from)
  • time travel
  • inventions
  • aviation and experimental flying contraptions
  • creative weapons with a Victorian twist
  • gadgets
  • discoveries
  • explorations
  • outlandish (and often scientific) journeys and voyages
  • mysteries
  • the occult (Victorian style)
  • diabolical criminal masterminds with cool gadgets who want to rule the world.
Joan Williams' Hand of Time Pendant suggests the time-travel theme in steampunk jewelry.

Joan Williams’ Hand of Time Pendant suggests the time-travel theme in steampunk jewelry.

Two Victorian-era science fiction authors whose books fuel the steampunk genre are Jules Verne (“Around the World in 80 Days”, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, etc.) and H.G. Wells (“The Time Machine”, “War of the Worlds”, etc.).

Frozen Charlotte's Time Machine -

Frozen Charlotte’s Time Machine by Joan Williams sends this tiny vintage doll into the future in her pillbox contraption.

Real-life and fictional characters from the Victorian era often show up in steampunk stories and movies.

Folks who make frequent appearances include:

  • Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde
  • Dracula
  • Queen Victoria
  • Captain Nemo
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Jack the Ripper.
Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" was the inspiration for Shannon Lovorn's Nautilus Navigator necklace.

Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” was the inspiration for Shannon Lovorn’s Nautilus Navigator necklace.

Steampunk Jewelry Supplies

Jewelry in this style usually starts out with a bit of Victorian / Edwardian influence, such as:

  • vintage (or vintage-inspired) components
  • cameos
  • chains
  • velvet
  • lace or ribbon
  • black beads
  • other black components (Queen Victoria helped make jet and mourning jewelry fashionable)
  • corset-style closures
  • old photos and other vintage ephemera
  • vintage-inspired charms
  • vintage-looking flora and fauna items
  • vintage buttons and notions
  • old-fashioned keys and tiny locks
  • filigree
  • mini photo frames
  • lockets
  • items symbolizing the Victorian fascination with the occult
  • antiqued or oxidized metals – gunmetal, brass, silver.
Antiqued, vintage locks and keys of any wearable size work well in this type of jewelry.

Antiqued, vintage locks and keys of any wearable size work well in this type of jewelry.

Then add creative, vintage gadget / industrial / science-fiction touches, such as:

  • antique pocket watches (or parts of them)
  • clock hands
  • vintage compasses, astrolabes, and other navigation gadgets
  • antiquey scientific items
  • vintage-looking nautical or aviation parts, or themed items
  • miniature vials or bottles
  • vintage industrial-looking items
  • springs or coils
  • gears and cogs
  • hardware (browse around your local hardware store for likely steampunk jewelry components!)
  • dials
  • moving parts
  • hidden or secret parts
  • messages
  • optical lenses
  • tiny vintage gadgets
  • old typewriter keys
  • etc.
You can use antiqued jewelry photo frames for vintage images, scraps of letters or books, collages - or to exhibit a collection of steampunk gears.

You can use antiqued jewelry photo frames for vintage images, scraps of letters or books, collages – or to exhibit a collection of steampunk gears.

For some designs, you may want to include components that symbolize Victorian society's obsession with the occult and metaphysical experiments.

For some designs, you may want to include components that symbolize Victorian society’s obsession with the occult and metaphysical experiments.

How to Make Steampunk Jewelry

I think the best approach is to spread out all the likely components you have to work with.

Move things around on your work surface, trying out how they look together.

Think about ways to make the jewelry design look like a intriguing vintage gadget or industrial item.

Or find a way to make it look like it might have a secret, fantastic purpose other than ornamentation.

Think up the story of this piece you’re inventing – and the story of the adventurous steampunk person wearing it more than a hundred years ago.

Most steampunk jewelry is unique and one-of-a-kind, since it sort of grows out of the available components!

Steampunk Tie Clip by Jim Osment

Steampunk Tie Clip by Jim Osment – made to wear to his nephew’s wedding. The propeller spins nicely!

And don’t forget that steampunk can also be cleverly fun or funny.

For example, R.E. Blake plays with the Victorian fascination with ancient mystical subjects in this Eye of Horace Amulet (inspired by the ancient Egyptian eye of Horus):

Eye of Horace Amulet-Necklace by R.E. Blake

R.E. Blake’s Eye of Horace Amulet, inspired by ancient Egyptians’ eye of Horus

Combining Steampunk with
Other Jewelry Styles

You can come up with unique twists to this jewelry theme by combining steampunk with other jewelry styles or materials.

For example, you might merge steam-style with bohemian style, as I did in my Boho Steampunk Earrings Tutorial:

Or you might use steampunk jewelry techniques and materials to adorn a hat:

Steampunk Skeleton Top Hat by Roz Asquith

Roz Asquith used clock elements to decorate both the skeleton and the hat in her Steampunk Skeleton Top Hat

You could also embellish this Victorian-inspired bracelet from my Leather and Lace Corset Bracelet Tutorial, to turn it into a wonderful steampunk accessory:

When You’ve
Finished Your Creation . . .

Submit it to our Steampunk Jewelry Gallery here, with a photo and brief writeup about it. We would love to see it!

Have a fantastic steam-powered adventure! :o)

Comments:

Love steampunk stuff
by: Elena

I love this style of jewelry, so fun to make and gets lots of compliments! People who haven’t seen it before always want to know more about it. Thanks for this great background on steampunk. I learned some interesting things here that I will definitely be using in my steampunk jewelry designs!

Eastern Steampunk variations
by: Patricia C Vener

Beyond the horizon towards the East you can also find the varied Japanese versions of steampunk inspired themes. These are mostly the Lolita movements which include an Edwardian twist that comes close the Western Steampunk.

I’ve enjoyed Steampunk as a literary movement for a very long time and I think it makes a terrific fashion statement as well.

Thanks for adding . . .
by: Rena

the info on Japanese steampunk and the Lolita movement, Patricia!

And I agree, this genre makes for exciting literature, films, and fashion too.

Steampunk is wonderful
by: Christine

I have always loved fantasy art with my jewelry. Steampunk allows me to create a mix of fantasy, the dark side, and the victorian era. Too much fun! But I think one reason that it has “come to light”, so to speak, is NCIS. Abby, the forensic scientist, is a Goth. And she has shown that Goth can be cool, too. I’m glad to be able to bring out this side of my jewelry for my show in August. I’ll sent some photos soon.

Very good information!
by: Joanne Donn

Thank you for this information! I have seen the Steampunk items around and like the style but didn’t know the background.

Now I want to go and find out more!

Just imagine…!
by: Jane Christie

All you need to do is let your imagination go…and of course collect all those wonderful bits and pieces. Just imagine making little dreams and wishes in jewellery!!! Great article.
Thanks,
Jane

wild wild west
by: packratpatty

both the t.v. show and the movie. have inspired me mostly with my sewing/fashion. I am looking for ideas for fiber jewelry in this style. Any help?

Steampunk jewelry
by: Linda

Thank you for sharing this information. I seen & heard about steampunk jewelry but didn’t know anything about it. This is very informative. Im going to share this for others out there like me. Thanks

Linda
MixedKreations

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Comments

  1. I’d love to know where the octopus comes into play with steampunk. I know a lot of nautical items are incorporated, but sea life? (Just trying to get a handle on all the amazing ‘subjects’ that find themselves under the title of ‘Steampunk’.
    Love, love, love your site Rena!
    Andrea

  2. Thank you so much Andrea! I’m guessing the octopus / sea life angle might be influenced by the underwater adventures of Captain Nemo from “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. :)

  3. I have been googling examples of SteamPunk jewelry and accessories for months on end, basically for some inspiration, since my collection of gears, beads, pendants, etc. have been rapidly accumulating over a number of years, though I hadn’t created a single piece. I’m so happy to have finally landed on this exact web page because not only have I used some of these photos as inspiration for my own pieces, I am amazed to see that there are many more examples and how-to’s provided on here as well! Thank you so much for the amazing options and detailed descriptions! I can’t wait to create my next piece and share with everyone!

  4. Zoro Zornes says:

    For the past 40 years I have always loved anything made of brass , bronze old leather, old gizmos, . I collect goggles and old lanterns , I have a 53 and a 57 Harley I ride every day , I don’t mind the oil drops I love the way it smells and they are so mechanical. All these years I was a “Steam Punk” and didn’t even know it . I’ve made rings out of water hose clamps, I bought my first bag of 50g. of old watch gears , cogs, etc, now let’s see what I can fabricate, God bless, and have a very merry Holiday

  5. You’re welcome, Sidney Rose – I can’t wait to see your steampunk inventions! :)

    Zoro, with your lifetime of hands-on experience with those elements, you can probably teach us some things about using and wearing them . . . and about actually living in a steampunk way! Honored to hear from you, and I wish you a happy holiday as well! :)

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