Jewelry Making with Rheumatoid Arthritis & Fibromyalgia

by Elizabeth Wald.
(Port Chester, NY)

Dear Rena,

When I saw that you added this category, I dove right in. For the many millions who suffer from chronic disease or disabilities, I know how life is firsthand through my own struggles with RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) and Fibromyalgia.

Believing that there will be a cure.

RA is a crippling disease that is painful and systemic in nature. Fibromyalgia, too causes disability and a lower quality of life. Unfortunately these types of illnesses cause depression and a downward spiral of pain and feelings of hopelessness.

A vast majority of people like myself end up having to shift careers or stop working all together. Currently there is no cure for RA or Fibromyalgia. But there is hope on the horizon. RA is not Osteo-Arthritis. People often confuse the two saying such things as, “Oh I have arthritis too. My right elbow hurts when it rains”.

People with RA and Fibromyalgia could only pray for such a good day. In hindsight I see what really has kept me sane is putting the pain in the background by becoming absorbed in jewelry making.

Since I was mostly housebound, making RA and Fibromyalgia awareness jewelry came from the common feeling across my support Forums that people on the outside knew very little of RA or Fibromyalgia. It seems to many that Fibromyalgia is all in our heads.

Labradorite Medic Alert Bracelet

The seemingly clueless members of society and even my immediate family and friends seem to have no idea how very painful life is on a day-to day basis with RA or Fibromyalgia. That is why they are known as ‘the invisible diseases’.

Coming across your site would prove to be my saving grace, Rena – because it eased the transition from personal trainer to that of jewelry designer. I was lucky that my designs started selling almost right away at local shows and fairs.

You have always been so upbeat and positive, something which normal healthy people need. Add to that the emotional baggage of a chronic disease and the transition requires nothing short of your attitude and a good support network. Without these elements, I really don’t see where a sense of mentoring occurs.

The change has certainly not been easy but it has been far more rewarding than anything I can remember. It’s been a blessing through the friends I have made – amazing and talented people and through the opportunities to help women with these diseases feel self empowered with their new conversational pieces, be it necklace, earrings or RA/Fibromyalgia Awareness bracelets.

This is one of the first items I designed which ended up in a two page spread feature story of Arthritis Health Monitor Magazine with orders that followed. I would say the most important and rewarding part of this feature story would later be speaking with women who contacted me though my website to share the same pain, frustration and sense of isolation I too was feeling.

It was a blessing to be able to inspire them to get back to their childhood crafts or explore a new medium for expressing their pain, or a new way of ‘putting the pain in the background’. I was also able to refer them to online forums so that they had resources and support groups that would suit their particular needs. I’d even go so far as to say that some of my clients have become my closest friends.

The next phase of jewelry making with a disability is very exciting because it expands to handcrafted Medical Alert bracelets, life saving devices that are not being worn as they are supposed to. That is where fashion meets challenge because we all envision a gaudy bracelet. That is where I embraced the challenge with vigor.

If I could make people love these bracelets enough, my mission of getting them to wear the bracelets 24/7 would be accomplished. What I did not realize is that I too, should be wearing a medical alert bracelet. That is the message I am trying to get across.

More and more I hear, “I never realized I should be wearing one”. Further, I aim on educating people on the importance of the medic alert ID and how it can literally change one’s life. People with chronic medical conditions that often go hand and hand with disabilities should be wearing a medical alert bracelet. That is how the crossover from my niche within the RA community has developed into what I foresee a venture worth diving into.

The best advice I can give is to find your niche of friends first, for example – if you are a breast cancer survivor join a BC support forum – and the rest will follow. I care about each and every person that purchases custom made jewelry from me and I treat every sale as if each handcrafted piece were for my best friend.

The market is saturated with customized medical alert bracelets. It is getting to know that individual so well that you can pop out a design in minutes knowing he or she will love it. It is also caring about them enough to want to encourage anyone with a disability to wear their medic alert bracelets. It’s about finding something meaningful to do with your life even though you live with a disability.

Just because you are ‘disabled’ does not mean that you have to give in and feel all depressed and sorry for yourself. On the contrary, it represents opportunities that never may have arisen in an otherwise ‘normal’ and healthy lifestyle.

Love what you do!

Elizabeth Wald
Stones in Harmony
Stones in Harmony Blog

Information contained in this website should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. No products mentioned in this post have been tested or endorsed by Rena Klingenberg.

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  • Rebecca says:

    You are a wonderful writer! You put into words, my thoughts & feelings! Your jewelry is absolutely gorgeous!! So glad I own many pieces!!!

    Thank you for all you do to help people like me!

  • Becca,

    No, thank YOU for reminding me that I’m not in this alone! I truly appreciate all of your support and appreciation of my jewelry but most of all, our friendship.



  • Steve says:

    Hi Lizzy, thanks for bringing some of the issues to the fore, and explaining the benefits of the right (therapeutic) hobbies! I have post-polio rome, which also means permanent pain, to varying degrees of intensity (but always present).

    This was complicated a couple of years ago with pancreatric problems which are recurrent and immensely debilitating. After losing 42 pounds (and I didn’t have any to spare anyway!), a gentle form of therapy was vital. Jewellery making is excellent for this (though there are still times when my health beats me) – even just as a distraction 😉

    Therapeutic crafting must never be overlooked!

  • Diana Redlin says:

    Dear Elisabeth,
    Thanks for pointing out the necessity of wearing a medical alert bracelet. My sister wears one because she is allergic to bee stings. I’ve been sick for 8 years and I never thought of wearing one for me!

    You make some very beautiful bracelets. You also explain the pain of RA and Fibromyalgia so very well.
    Thank you,

  • Jane says:

    Thank you for your lovely article. I also have OA and ME/CFS/Fibromyalgia together with various other problems. The isolation and living with the constant pain the worst of which changes from day to day, the misunderstanding of the medical professionals and Benefits Tribunals leads to a huge amount of depression and further isolation.
    I must admit I found your article inspiring and will continue to try to improve my skills in jewellery making as a form of therapy.
    Thanks xx

  • Beautifully written. You are a master with words as well as jewelry. Cudos toyou.

  • A group of Rena fans have just started a group called Physically Challenged Artist’s Support Group. If you haven’t joined yet, please do! Steve and Jane – above – should look at it, too. We need all the support we can muster!
    It is on Big

    *NOTE from Alicia,
    You can now follow this link to the public page of the group and request an invitation.

    JMJ Content Specialist

  • Katrina says:

    I love this!
    I suffer from a life threatening vasculitis disease, Wegners granulomatosis.
    I love you medical alert bracelets, they are a fantastic idea and i love how you can customise them to a set, or your favorite stone.

    If you don’t mind me asking , where did you get the plates?
    I;d love to make some for friends that suffer with the same disease as i do.

  • Colleen says:

    Your article is wonderful. There are so many conditions that cause continuous pain, pain that people who do not have to deal with it on a daily basis do not understand. I do have one suggestion – the clasp on your bracelet. I see you used a lobster clasp. Might it be best to use a magnet clasp? It might be easier for some to use. Just a suggestion.

    Thank you from a fellow pain sufferer.

  • Kathy says:

    Hi Elizabeth,
    That is a great description of life with pain. Mine is Fibro, Osteo A and other issues with my spine. The only time I have peace from pain is when I take my night meds that force me to sleep.

    It is so frustrating how other people treat me if I bring up Fibro. The conversation either goes silent or is quickly changed to another topic. I refuse to be silent. Its way overdue that people learn Fibro is real, it hurts and messes with our brain.

    Anyway, I won’t get on a rant =D
    Thanks for writing that and I hope it reaches people and opens some eyes.

    Gentle Hugs,

  • Jenny says:

    I just wanted to put up another message to everyone who is a physically challenged and their passion is to make jewelry and or other crafts. Please join us on BigTent at Find our group here. We would love to see you there!

    Note: Jenny, I removed your email address as it’s too easy for the spambots to pick up emails from Comments. – Alicia, JMJ Content Specialist

  • Pascha Lee says:

    Just like you, your jewelry is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. I love them all.

  • Brandi says:

    When my mother with Type II diabetes stopped wearing her Medic Alert bracelet because it was so “plain”, I took her with me to go bead shopping and let pick out any beads she liked (especially ones that matched the scrubs she wears as an emergency room nurse). I made her several detachable bracelets to put her Sterling silver pendant on. I am pleased to say she now wears it every single day with no complaints!

    I have some pics on my pinterest board labeled Physically Challenged Artists Support Group on BigTent, which I am now a proud member. I would never have found this group of wonderfully talented and supportive artists without the help of Rena and all of those that started it and commented on getting it going!! Thank you!!

    -Brandi from Turlock, CA (same town the home office for Medic Alert was founded and still remains today)

  • Yogy says:

    My aunt had arthiritis & she was a fighter and a very creative and artisitic person. People around us are so inspirational:)

    Yogy creations

  • Kim Gorman says:

    Glad to find others here that suffer from RA and realize the challenges we face everyday. I was diagnosed with RA in 2007, having had to leave a job I loved in 2006 due to horrible pain. My jewelry is what gives me my core back, the me that was, so to speak. Some days are good and I can craft awhile and lose myself, but as you know that horrid pain does not live by a calender nor clock. I am so glad to find others that actually know the life that surrounds RA. I love you medical bracelets! I had never thought of such a clever idea. Thank you so very much for sharing your story, it truly is a win in the fight for educating others and shows your remarkable love for jewelry as well.

    May God Bless <3

  • Debbie says:

    I am so glad I found this. I have OA and Fibro. People do not understand how much pain we are in and how depressed I get. Would love to make jewelry and meet other people with these illness.

  • I love this idea. And having fibro, I really appreciate your encouragement.

    To Colleen: the double lobster clasp enables one to have several different colours of bracelets and change out the medallion to change your “look”. I do agree that it’s not the easiest clasp to use, but for this purpose, it’s perfect.

    My husband bought me a 14k gold chain medical bracelet and I use a lobster clasp because I never take it off. If I was taking it off all the time, I’d want something easier too. If you’re making one for somebody that is the only one they wear then you could definitely chose whatever clasp is best for them.

  • What a wonderful find! I also have fibromyalgia, along with injuries from my stint in the Army. It is so nice to see I am not alone! I appreciate you writing about this. Crafting in general, and jewelry making specifically saved my life. If I had not found this wonderful pastime, I would have given up! It gave me focus and helped me see I was worth something. Thanks so much for writing about this topic!

  • Jenny says:

    Thank you for the article. I don’t hear enough from younger individuals like myself that have had to deal with becoming disabled from pain so early in life. It obviously can bring it’s own unique concerns such as how can I afford to live if I can’t work at my good job, or I love my career, who am I without it? At 33 years old I have had 2 open chest surges resulting in permanent lifting restrictions and pain making it impossible for me to continue my 11 year career as a physical therapist assistant. So what do you do at that point? Well I did decide to go back to school for a degree in psych where I can sit and talk all day vs. lifting patients. But I still had to deal with the immense grief of losing a career I worked hard at and was my passion. Giving up my career for chronic pain was not something I would wish on my worst enemy.

    Anyway while recovering from my first surgery I decided to learn how to make jewelry since I’ve always wanted to design things but never knew how. So a friend showed me the bare bones basics stringing. Well making jewerly has become my passion and my savior from insanity from pain. I am in school but when I’m having a particularly rough day it changes me completely mind, body, and soul to spend time in my jewelry studio, and more times than not realize my pain has lessend while I’ve been working

    I recently injured my low back and now am facing back surgery. Its made it difficult to sit and make jewerly but I’ll be damned if I give up my passion in life. So I just work for 10 or 15 min then lay down a half hour. It may take a long time to make but at least I still feel I have a purpose….

  • sandi says:

    Wow seems you really hit a nerve here ( pun intended) Great idea and beautiful product. You are doing something good for people while having fun yourself! I too have fibro , and many other problems. I dont talk about it and when people ask I play it down as really do they want to know. Seems the only people who really understand have it too.
    I found swimming really helps my body and jewelry making helps my mind. Now onto trying to figure out how to sell my stuff and deal with fibro fog.
    Staying positive and having fun is the best medicine. Thanks for these thoughts.

  • Donna says:

    Hi, Elizabeth–

    Very nice jewelry and touching life story. My thoughts are with you regarding the RA and the fibro. I was diagnosed with RA at 36…23 years ago. Both of my wrists were fused about 19 years ago along with repaired tendons from the sharp bones that tore them. I’ve had 11 surgeries on my left elbow, starting with removal of the joint and replacement of it with a prosthetic, then a few ‘adjustment’ surgeries, and then three more surgeries to remove the prosthetic due to a fierce infection. Now I’m trying to decide whether to have a new prosthetic put in or stay with the useless arm. Tough decision…but I love making jewelry and I miss it terribly.

    These articles and all of the comments are such a help to me; and, after reading your article/comments I think I’m moving closer to a new elbow!

    Thanks, Elizabeth and Rena…you may just have given me the push I need.

    My best to all who contribute to this “Disabilities and Jewelry Making” community…and congratulations on all the really lovely jewelry you’ve made and shown here.


  • Caroline says:

    Elizabeth, I share everyone else’s thoughts in thanking you for sharing your story. I have Fibro and CFS, some arthritis starting in my knees and hips, naturally depression, which goes with the territory of being isolated and misunderstood and constantly in pain, tired and frustrated. I too love to do jewelry as this will now be my only source of income as I can no longer work and unemployment has run out and the package deal that my last job gave me to get rid of me has also almost run out.
    You and all of you who have commented above have encouraged me and I thank you.
    Gentle hugs to you all and happy beading, wire wrapping, jewelry making 🙂 xx

  • Lucy says:

    Hiya, I am a jewellery maker with RA and fibromyalgia. It was really nice to see this article here, especially today, as Im feeling quite blue. Always great to be reminded you are not alone. You are awesome. Love and gentle hugs. Lucy xx

  • Betsy says:

    You put into words what I feel. I have RA, OA, Fibro, MS + others. I am most comfortable surrounded by my bead horde. When I’m in my studio I am calm & serene. I started creating jewelry in 2008. My pieces started selling immediately. I was also re-creating older pieces for my clients. Your bracelets are beautiful!
    Thank you for putting it out there in plain English!

  • Anneliese says:

    Hi Elizabeth, I suffer chronic pain.. joint and muscle. I gave all my bead supplies to a friend because my hands were getting so bad. I kept having no strength in my hands.. Wonder is there is tools that help one hold on to instruments? I tried the craft gloves .. those help some with stiffiness.

  • Hi Anneliese, I’m sorry to hear about your pain and difficulty with hand strength. I have two tips that may help you:
    Get a Grip – an Easy Way to Grasp Things
    Tools for a Person with Difficulty Using Hands
    I hope this helps, Anneliese, and I wish you the joy of making jewelry again!

  • Sharon Jones says:

    Thanks for this perfectly-written post. I also have RA and I have chronic pain due to a back injury and 3 spine surgeries. I agree that most people have no idea of the difference between regular arthritis and RA. I find that jewelry-making provides such an “escape” from chronic pain. I once explained to my husband who voiced a mild complaint that I wasn’t paying enough attention to a TV show (because I was also making jewelry while watching) that doing both things almost eliminated the pain from my mind. What a wonderful blessing God has provided by letting me be creative!

    I also want to encourage others by reminding us all about this blessing! Additionally, I decided that I didn’t want to be defined by my pain….so when friends (well meaning) asked me how I’m feeling, I simply say “situation normal….but I’m feeling great”! I do this because I have so much to be thankful for and am extremely blessed by family, friends, comfortable home, great church and a wonderful “addition” to making jewelry! I cut rocks…see God Rocks album in my Facebook page…I LOVE seeing what’s really there once you cut away all the gunk and shape and polish them….I love creating silver jewelry via silversmithing….but when my body won’t permit that and I’m resigned to be a couch potato, I can still sew with tiny seed beads and make beautiful jewelry….that’s what I call being blessed and “feeling great”! Blessings to all you beautiful, like-minded, jewelry-making addicted creatures created by God! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Pavia Craft says:

    Thank you for sharing your struggles and successes. You reminded me I am not alone and have given me the encouragement to try and move forward with my jewelry making. I have the same diseases you have with a couple of other auto-immune illness to make my life hell most of the time but I am praying I have the strength to see this through. But ……… one day at a time. Thanks again for sharing.

  • Janet says:

    My heart is breaking for you all because I KNOW. My precious daughter was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis & fibro at around 20 years old. She was still in college. Let’s just say that her 20’s were the absolute pits. We finally found a doctor who was a fibro specialist & she understood. Then medication, addiction, recovery & falling in love. She will be celebrating her first wedding anniversary soon. She takes very good care of herself now. She still has her conditions but is doing so much better. I tell you this because there IS hope. The strange part is that I developed autoimmune arthritis after she did. I also have muscle pain, especially lower back & thighs. God prepared me by learning from & helping my daughter❤️ And she is the jewelry artist who got me started!

  • Janet, lovely to hear that your daughter is doing so much better. And I hope your health improves too. Do you and your daughter do jewelry together?

  • Janet says:

    Sometimes! She lives in a different part of Houston so it’s not very convenient. But I’m trying to get her to help/contribute to my Etsy shop. She is very talented. Proud mom, right?!

  • I know three people who cured themselves of fibromyalgia. All three were allergic to gluten. I used to have muscle pain and spasms, involuntarily movement of my eyes (ataxia), stiff joints, headaches, vertigo, IOW, systemic inflammation, all caused by allergies to wheat, dairy, and soy.

    Have you been tested for food allergies and MTHFR genetic mutation?

    Check out the customer reviews for this supplement:

  • Oh wow! I had not seen these comments lol, and I am truly overwhelmed with this response and RENAMEISTER – that is the perfect way to handle someone with a chronic disease: showing empathy and then literally giving us “tools” as a very helpful and practical answer. I’m going to have to visit that link re tools for “Get a grip” and I love that domain. Thank you for that and thanks all for your amazing support.

    The most astonishing thing you have created is a community of supportive people here, Rena – who are direct, open minded and kind, but mostly – we all lift each other up while we inspire each other – and wow I am blushing,

    Elizabeth Wald

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