Question of Legality on Repurposed Jewelry

by Melinda Pollack.
(USA)
question-mark-steel-blue-on-green-grungeDo you know if its legal to purchase pre-made jewelry from China, take it apart and create another design from the elements taken from it?

Or, use it for a different purpose while still having the same design?

Melinda Pollack

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Comments

  1. Sarah S. says:

    I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that in the US, copyright does not apply to jewelry – as like clothing it is considered a “useful” item. Trademarks and patents may apply. Additionally, there is something called the “doctrine of first sale” that basically states once you buy an item you own it and have the right to make changes and/or resell it. Think of it like buying a stock car and then retrofitting it to be a hotrod. You bought it, so you can do what you like and you can resell it.

    Now, aside from legalities, there are other questions:
    Do you know what that Chinese jewelry is made of? Is it actually safe for the re purposing? If it was originally an earring component meant to dangle away from the body, is it safe to use it as a pendant with constant skin contact?
    Who is your clientele? Do they want that type of mass produced item? If so, are they willing to pay handmade prices for the changes you made to it?

    Personally, I prefer not to do this type of repurposing, at least not for the focals. I find they don’t usually fit my aesthetic anyway. I will use some of the complementary beads out of a piece, if they look nice and complement the more unique focal I want to use. But I almost never buy a piece just for that…

  2. Well, put, Sarah.

    I’m sure there’s nothing illegal about using parts, since you could simply resell the jewelry if you wanted to. To me, creatively, there’s a question of how much you’re actually changing the original item. I’ve seen jewelry on etsy (bird and branch necklaces, especially) that is labeled “handmade” although it’s made from a kit. I had a seller get very offended when I said that, to my mind, this is not what “handmade” means.

  3. Penny says:

    I do this all the time. New and old pieces. I have taken apart my own jewelry, redesigned it and sold it. I think the other commenter is right, once you purchase it, it’s yours to do what you want with it.

  4. I asked a friend of mine who sells for a company that has a catalog and now on line about this. The jewelry has the name of the company on the back. She said that after she sells her product to me, that I can do whatever I want to the parts.

  5. I don’t think there’s anything illegal about deconstructing and reconstructing jewellery of any sort. I would make sure to point out to potential customers that it’s repurposed or recreated, whichever terminology fits your branding. Just be as transparent as possible about it, and make it a part of your business’s story. A lot of people like the idea of recycled items.

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