How to Make Steampunk Jewelry

by Rena Klingenberg. © 2003-Present Rena Klingenberg. All Rights Reserved

How to Make Steampunk Jewelry - tutorial 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.

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.
Storing Jewelry Supplies and Tools - Rena Klingenberg

Steampunk jewelry supplies stored in a tiny transparent trunk.

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
  • Dracula
  • Queen Victoria
  • Captain Nemo
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Jack the Ripper.

Steampunk Jewelry Supplies

How to Make Steampunk Jewelry

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

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.

Elegant Steampunk Earrings by Rena Klingenberg:

Elegant Steampunk Earrings - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

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:

Boho Steampunk Earrings - tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

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:

leather and lace corset bracelet tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Have a fantastic steam-powered adventure!

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  • Andrea says:

    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

  • 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”. 🙂

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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! 🙂

  • Alana says:

    my issue is not what to use, but exactly how to get items to stick together. must they be soldered?I have a new timey cheap plague mask that I want to make into a gold lookwith machinery on it, but no clue how to begin or what paints are going to work. I think its plastic or mache, and needs covered with art.

  • Hi Alana, it sounds like a spray paint might work well for turning your plague mask gold. I’d recommend a trip to the hardware / home improvement / craft store, where you can check out various spray paints, the textures / surfaces they create, and what materials they work best on.

    For attaching Steampunk elements together, many can be wired together – you might use copper or brass wire, or even craft wire / artistic wire.

    Also you might also try specialty glues. E6000 is commonly used in jewelry (check the label for what materials it’s designed for). Also, you may want to visit the glue-information site thistothat.com – where you enter the two things you want to glue together, and the site recommends types of glue for that use.

    And if you’re going to do a lot of Steampunk artistry, you may want to get a craft soldering iron – you can check out more about those if you do a Google search.

    I hope this helps, and I’d love to see your finished plague mask with machinery parts, if you’d like to share it with us via our post submission form!

  • Cheryl says:

    Awesome pieces, interesting techniques and beautiful results. Many thanks for your generous sharing 🙂

  • Petey says:

    Please be aware that some old watches were painted with radium, which can be a hazard of collecting bits & pieces to use. Be careful!

  • Rose says:

    The octopus elements also come from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu myths.
    (Link to a pic: telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/films/2016/10/28/cthulhu_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqeWq0Odl7YRxHNYM74_QBWlbFJiGQSGUwQFXFdwSXZiw.jpg?imwidth=1400 )

  • Of course – Cthulhu! Thanks for reminding me of that, Rose! 🙂

  • Marie says:

    Andrea, the octopus comes directly from Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

  • Sharon Pappas says:

    Love your stuff! Thanks!

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