Getting Cheap or Free Supplies for Making Jewelry

by Rena Klingenberg.

Here are several ways to get cheap or free supplies for making jewelry.

As with most free things, you’ll need to invest a bit of your time and cleverness instead of money to acquire a stash of free jewelry components and tools.

Here are my top suggestions for getting free / cheap supplies for making jewelry:

Repurposing Trash into Treasure

Use found objects, discarded items, and other odds and ends to create jewelry.

That’s what Karen Kelsky did when she created her 100% Recycled Paper Art Pendant:

Photo 1: Karen sourced her metal from this discarded cable bundle.

Photo 2: Her colorful paper came from this bread bag filled with paper scraps.

Photo 3: She shaped and hammered some of the wire into this lovely spiral pendant shape. Then she attached some of the paper scraps to it and applied gel medium.

Photo 4: Voila! A gorgeous pendant with the look of stained glass, created from discarded scraps and hung on a recycled cord. No one would ever guess its humble origins.

Take Apart Your Jewelry Creations
that Aren’t Selling

If you have some jewelry items in your inventory that haven’t sold after several showings, you may want to consider taking them apart (if they can be taken apart), and re-using the components in fresh designs.

Use Up All of Your Scraps

After every jewelry making project, there are almost always bits and pieces of things left over. . . a couple of beads, an inch of chain, short pieces of wire, and so on.

Why not turn these scraps and oddments into supplies for making jewelry?

As an example, here’s a quick photo of small pieces of leftover wire I’ve turned into things like connectors, hooks, clasps, dangles, pendants, coils, split rings, etc.:

Nearly any spare parts can be used in some way in making jewelry – especially if you think past how these leftover components were originally intended to be used.

Often you can find a totally new way to use a small scrap, so that it contributes a wonderfully unique, creative touch to your handmade jewelry.

Let People Know
What You’re Looking for

Your friends, family, co-workers, local businesses, etc. probably discard items every day that you could use in making jewelry.

Let everyone know about your “green” approach to jewelry design, and what kind of items you’re seeking that could be used as tools and supplies for making jewelry.

Most people (and businesses) would much rather have you repurpose their discarded stuff than add it to a landfill.

Once you get the word out, prepare to receive all kinds of interesting objects that have potential as free jewelry supplies!

Keep an Eye Out for
“Grab Bags” and Bulk Clearance Lots

In Keeping Prices Affordable, Tracy details how she made two gemstone-and-wire pendants for a total of less than a dollar.

Her components came from a “grab bag” deal, plus frugal shopping at Home Depot and the 99Cent store – enabling her to keep her finished jewelry prices low while still earning a fair profit.

Finding Jewelry Supplies
in a Place with No Suppliers

Jean BH lives a in a place where there are no jewelry suppliers. But that doesn’t stop her from making jewelry.

Here she reveals her methods for finding materials to use in her jewelry making: Jewelry Supply Resources in Foreign Places.

Free Jewelry Tools

Can’t afford jewelry tools?

In this fun discussion about What Unofficial Jewelry Tools Do You Use?, jewelry artists reveal their “unofficial” tools – ordinary household items that work quite well for making jewelry. (Be sure to read through all the comments at the bottom of that post.)

Have Your Customers Supply
Some of Your Jewelry Components

Here’s a great way to make a leftover dangle earring wearable, and offer a custom jewelry service that makes your customers very happy: Custom Jewelry Design Niche Idea.

Comments:

More Ideas
by: Karen Kelsky

Thank you for featuring my Blue Earth Recycled Pendant! I created that for a recycled art fair here in Eugene. As I was working on it, I discovered many sources for recycled and scrap materials. Many towns, like ours in Eugene, are blessed with a re-used art supply center. Ours is called MECCA (Materials Exchange Center for the Creative Arts), and people bring in all sorts of potentially usable scrap fabric, beads, cable, paper, ephemera, decor items, etc. for others to come in and buy for a couple bucks. Check if your town has one!

Another place I found terrific materials is our building supply recycle site. I found bird netting there that I turned into a really cool cuff bracelet:

 

Cuff of Netting Seeds and Vintage Kimono Thread Recycled Modern

And then local Goodwills and Salvations Armies always have tons of scrap yarn, beads, paint, glues, wire, paper string, and other items that I use constantly.

One thing I depend on recycled materials for in all of my business is in packaging. I am determined to use only recycled paper, etc. for envelope stuffing to protect my jewelry when I ship it. It’s the right thing to do, AND it keeps more money in my pocket!

Thanks again for including me!

Great sources, Karen!
by: Rena

Thank you for mentioning the re-used supply center places. Our small town has a place like that called simply “Salvage”. About 2/3 of the building is devoted to lumber scraps and building construction leftovers, and the other 1/3 is filled with bins of fabric remnants, odd spools of lace, ribbon, sequins, etc. . . and boat-loads of buttons!

Also, I love that netting bracelet – it looks lightweight and comfy, but stylish enough for people to comment on it and ask what it’s made of!

Other Sources
by: Anonymous

I would add garage sales and flea markets.

You have electrician, but if you see houses being built drop by and ask for scrap wire. I also ask the cable truck, telephone truck, etc… when they are in the neighborhood fixing things.

Thanks!
by: Amy

There are really great ideas! Thanks for sharing everyone!
Amy
http://amybeads.blogspot.com
Making Jumprings
by: Gloria – Especially For You Designs

I needed to make a specific sized jump ring and didn’t have anything that size. I went to the hardware store looking for something the size I needed. Nails. They were the perfect size and so cheap. Now I just grab the size I need, wrap my wire and have dozens of jump rings in moments.

that reminded me!
by: Karen Kelsky

The comment about nails reminded me that I found an amazing source of mandrels for jump rings of every size imaginable, plus wire-working in general, in old mismatched KNITTING NEEDLES that are sold individually for about 10 cents apiece at the goodwill. they go up to about 3/4″ wide, and down to as tiny as an embroidery needle, and they’re really smooth so the wire slides on and off easily, and long so they’re easy to handle. I make my Japan Renaissance Gems and Lovebubbles earrings using those. http://paperdemonjewelry.etsy.com

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  • Janis Evans says:

    Thank you! This reminds me how I started out making jewellery by taking apart my old jewellery. I still love it!

  • Diane says:

    Love your suggestions! Do any of you have experience with the large bead shows? I’m planning to attend the big one in Tucson next year for the first time and am wondering if it’s worth the time/effort/money? Thanks for any advice in advance!

  • I’m very new at making jewelry, have lots of tools and supplies to do several projects. However, I’m having a hard time coming up with “dowels” to make various ovals for making chain necklaces. Does anyone have a source that I can try? Thank you!

  • Hi Patricia!

    I inherited my grandmother’s set of steel knitting needles – in every size from teeny to huge – and they make wonderful mandrels / dowels. If you knit, you might check out your knitting needles as jewelry-making tools! And if you’re not a knitter, I would imagine a set of knitting needles in various sizes wouldn’t be too expensive.

  • Hi Diane!

    Yes, we have three great posts here at JMJ related to shopping at gem / bead shows:

    Tucson Gem Show

    Bead Show Tips

    Tips for Attending Bead Shows.

    I hope this helps – and have a wonderful time shopping the Tucson show! We’d love to hear about your experiences there! 🙂

  • Vicky says:

    Fab ideas, although be careful how much time it takes to make findings – time is money!! And it *might* be more cost effective to buy in bulk for tiny things that won’t matter if they aren’t hand-made. Maybe if you know someone nearby who also makes jewellery, and you’re friendly, you could form a collective to buy in bigger bulk and therefore save more.

  • dkendrafran says:

    Big Thanks to Karen Kelsky. I live in Eugene, I create wire-sculpted jewelry and I didn’t know of MECCA. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Jen says:

    I find shopping for jewelry at thrift stores is an awesome way to get really good quality beads etc for next to nothing. Then just take them apart and repurpose them into your own designs.

  • Im a terrible hoarder and collector, much to my fellas disdain. I collect from the beach, woods, garden, anyones shed who will let me rummage. I reuse plastic bottles (thanks for mentioning my recycled necklace in your issue 183 Rena), plastic bags, cable wire, hardware, old teeth (dont laugh), animal bone, glass that i break, china that i break (oh i dont break these on purpose though), string, old clothes….blimey i didnt realise just how much ‘junk’ i reuse. No wonder Pete gets irate with me.

    I dont just make jewellery though. I make rag rugs from old clothes, small stuffed toys from thrifted material and old clothes, i crochet funky mixed yarn blankets for pet rescue centres and for humans too.

    Im really a massive hater of throwing anything anyway and fear i will end up on a UK channel 5 tv program being dragged kicking and screaming from our home that we have to literally worm our way through to get from room to room.

    I will let you into a secret…i have my one bunnys ashes saved and i have been dying (no pun intended) to make then into something but fear folk will think it too macabre.

    Gaynor

    Im off to join hoarders anonymous.

  • Lorraine says:

    Can someone tell me a company where I can get jewelry cards with my business name on it, and bags that I can put my business name on?
    Thank for your help

  • Diane says:

    Lorraine ~ I use VistaPrint. They are economical & I like the quality of their business cards (I pay extra for the heavier stock). They may have the imprinted bags that you’re seeking but I don’t know for sure. Good luck!

  • Diane says:

    Thanks, Rena, for the show locations. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Tucson shows for the first time! I’ll let you know my experience after I attend. ^_^

  • Dita says:

    I feel I have too much stuff now accumulated over the years, which takes up a lot of my time keeping them organized. Then when I sit down to do something I might not find the right clasp or chain or head pin. So keeping my tit bits organized and having a running inventory ,( like making grocery list) is what my challenge is now. That part is what I am going to focus next year to keep the cost of my jewelry making down. Time is money and I can not afford to give so much time in house keeping and organizing.

  • Lorraine, I have printed my own business cards in the past, however, just recently, I used 123 Print, they offer fast service, frequent discounts and a lot of products you can put your logo, and business info on that make it look like you hired a designer, not just bought business cards. I have bought banners and car magnets, postcards etc. even gift certificates and for some things, they provided free envelopes, and address or other business labels. Also, you can certainly use the internet to find places that will do custom printing of bags, or I use just solid color paper tote bags with a Printed customized address label. There are a lot of ways to use office supplies in a business. I use my logo design on vertical business cards with a lot of margin at the top left blank, to use for earring cards. All I have to do is punch holes, and use the reverse blank side to post materials and price, using labels I print at home. So you can certainly use do it yourself things, as well as combine them with business products that you can get printed and still save money, by being selective with the design you choose, and the colors and papers you decide to use to promote your business.

  • Janella says:

    Lorraine,
    I use gemsondisplay.com for bags and display items. Great quality and prices. They do logos also.

  • Alice Potter says:

    Regarding the earring cards– I purchased a Bead Landing Earring Display Card Punch at Joann Fabrics. I paid $5 for it with a 50% off coupon. I use heavy card stock or you can probably use index cards too. I had a stamp made with my logo and name.

  • Anne Perez says:

    Here in Houston the re-used art supply store is Art Asylum:
    texasartasylum.com/
    Hard to find but worth it. Some one on Facebook described it as “my grandma’s attic meets Hoarders”. LoL but so true.

  • Mary says:

    Lorraine,
    I design my business cards at VistaPrint. I keep the front with my logo and website and the type of jewelry I make. On the back I leave a 3/4 inch blank space at the top then put jewelry care instructions. I bought an earring card punch and use it in the blank space so my biz card serves as an earring display when I need one.

  • Carrie says:

    To Patricia Gingerich: I get dowels at the hardware store, or you can get them in the hardware department at any Walmart.

  • Julie White says:

    I like Gems on Display for display items, bags, boxes etc. they will print your logo too. I had a self inking rubber stamp made by Rubber Stamp Champ so I can stamp my logo on anything! I have bought cut out card stock shapes (leaf, banner) on Etsy to use for earrings or other small pieces. I stamp my logo on the front, list the materials used on the back and staple or gluespot my biz card to the back to stiffen the cardstock. You can punch holes with a stickpin which holds the ear wires tighter than with punch holes. You can get any size dowels at Hobby Lobby. You can use wooden spoon handles or anything like that around the house for mandrels!

  • Jane says:

    Free bead source.
    Know any musicians? Some guitar strings have a lovely little metal (brass?) circle at the end which, if you snip it off, makes a great spacer bead. Maybe the local music shop would save old strings if asked.

  • Karen Robison says:

    Don’t forget something as simple as getting your local or state vendors license and then signing up for tax exempt cards at your local and national craft stores where you buy your supplies. You will not have to pay sales tax because you will collect it when you make a sale. Many local bead stores give nice vendor discounts when you tell them you have a jewelry business. This all helped me out tremendously when I was getting started.

  • Thanks so much for adding that great tip, Karen! 🙂

  • I have been using knitting needles for making jump-ring for ages, my hubby can’t go to a hardware store with me without me looking at all the bits and bobs, to see if there is something I can use.

    He avoids yard sales and thrift stores like the plague, I have to go to those alone or with a friend. 🙂

  • Shirley says:

    I love this article, and thanks to everyone who has contributed. Why, because it’s exactly how I feel. Just look around your house, the garage and ask what your husband is throwing out. Especially the wires, computer odds and sods, nuts and bolts stuff. Heeheehee! What a saving$$$ Thanks Rena.

  • You’re very welcome, Shirley! Thanks for your lovely comment. 🙂

  • Deana Pearson says:

    Wire wrapping jewelry: old nonworking electronic’s TV’s, stereo’s, speakers etc has tons of great copper wire!!
    Old supposedly empty printer ink cartridges have either dry powder which is the same as embossing powder or liquid you add alcohol to and have alcohol ink.
    Better source of alcohol ink is old dried out markers … Cut fiber insides into pieces and add alcohol. Don’t get it on you or anything else.

  • David says:

    I am always on the lookout for jewelry to re-purpose.
    Most recent is turning slim wrist bangles into rings
    or earrings. I head to Michael’s several times a month
    for sales items and discounts.

  • Bridge says:

    I love the idea of stripping cable for wire. I was wondering what the wire in cables is made from. I know you have copper wire, but what is the silver wire? Just wanted to make sure it was a safe metal to wear

  • guin says:

    Check for clearance and close out items when grocery shopping or even when visiting the pharmacy. Have seen specially marked grocery carts, shelves, and/or tables of unique marked down items that could be repurposed for jewelry making and other creative things.

  • Guin, thanks for this great jewelry supplies tip!

  • I want to thank all of you for your great ideas. I am just a beginner, and need all the help I can get. I love jewelry, and want to learn to wire wrap. That fascinates me to make something so beautiful out of some wire and beads.

  • Patsy, thanks so much for your lovely comment! I think you will love getting into wire jewelry. There are so many wonderful possibilities when designing with wire!

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