by Rena Klingenberg.
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.
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!
The stories from this genre often involve the themes of
- steam-powered technology (which is where the name comes from)
- time travel
- aviation and experimental flying contraptions
- creative weapons with a Victorian twist
- outlandish (and often scientific) journeys and voyages
- the occult (Victorian style)
- diabolical criminal masterminds with cool gadgets who want to rule the world.
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.).
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
- Queen Victoria
- Captain Nemo
- Sherlock Holmes
- Jack the Ripper.
Steampunk Jewelry Supplies
Jewelry in this style usually starts out with a bit of Victorian / Edwardian influence, such as:
- vintage (or vintage-inspired) components
- 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
- mini photo frames
- items symbolizing the Victorian fascination with the occult
- antiqued or oxidized metals – gunmetal, brass, silver.
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!)
- moving parts
- hidden or secret parts
- optical lenses
- tiny vintage gadgets
- old typewriter keys
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!
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):
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:
You could also embellish this Victorian-inspired bracelet from my Leather and Lace Corset Bracelet Tutorial, to turn it into a wonderful steampunk accessory:
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)
Love steampunk stuff
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 . . .
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
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!
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.
wild wild west
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?
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