Pin this on Pinterest

Staff upcycling challenge


Back in June, we featured Upcycling on Facet, and had a record number of entries to our Design Challenge theme. The jewelry editors here at Kalmbach Publishing were inspired, and we entered into an Upcycling Challenge of our own! I had curated some truly tragic pieces of once-loved jewelry from both my own house and a thrift store and flea market, Julia added a few more from her own stash, and we had a blind drawing to choose a piece to rework into something new. 

We had a blast doing it, although some of us took a bit longer than the others to finish (OK, it was me, I took the longest!), but we're now proud to share the results of our own Challenge. 

We learned that almost any piece of jewelry, no matter how broken or out-of-style, can (and should) be salvaged. Bits of chain, focal beads, accent beads, charms, and more can be reused or reinvented in any number of ways. And think of all the new places to shop! A Saturday afternoon at a flea market, rummage sale, or thrift store may not be everyone's idea of fun, but I plan to work them into my schedule with a bit more regularity from now on. When you look at an out-of-style piece with an eye on what it *could* be, rather than what it is, a whole new world of design options opens up to you. 

So here are our before-and-afters, with some comments from the designers on the steps that they took to remake their piece. 



What exactly is going on with this brooch? It looks like someone tried to see how much weight that poor pin could hold or maybe it was a display for dangles. Anyhow, I thought the dangles were pretty, but they just didn't go with the pin. I decided to simplify and separate the beads for use on a bracelet, while also showcasing the dangles by creating a simple pair of earrings.
All of the components used were purchased at the Bead&Button Show. It was difficult to identify the metal used in the original components. After conferring with many vendors, the popular opinion is that the metal is antiqued silver. The closest match that I could find was this leaf chain that I bought from the which was also the most expensive part of the project. To save a little money, I used free crystals from Jesse James Beads that were found in the swag bag from Candi Cooper’s “Coffee with Candi” event.
ERICA BARSE, Senior Editor, Kalmbach Books
This necklace is confusing. The colors work together, and the beads are in good shape, but the focal cluster of beads hanging from a tired-looking center piece is too long and drapes strangely on the body. The necklace is meant to be casual, but there are too many beads. The odd constructions makes the piece look fussy.
I didn’t need to do much to update this piece. I removed the center focal/bead cluster entirely, which automatically made me feel much better. I liked the idea of adding a pendant, so I dug through my beading stash and found a lovely wood spiral that my sister, Anna Maczka, engineered for me a few years ago. The combination of wood, metal, and glass makes for a clean, easy-to-wear piece. I cut the bead clusters in half for a matching pair of earrings. Simple and quick!
DIANE JOLIE, Associate Editor, Bead&Button magazine
During our blind grab bag, I pulled out a plain chain necklace with a daisy drop, which reminded me of something I might have worn as a child.
I chose to keep all the original elements and embellish them. Having just come back from a trip up North were I took many walks in the woods, I felt a woodland collection was fitting. I paired bead caps with pearls to mimic acorns, and combined flat teardrop beads with small metallic beads to looked like fallen petals. Since the original flower appeared underwhelming, I stitched a bezel with 15/0s and a metallic bead to give it a richer look, resembling a seeded center.
JULIA GERLACH, Editor, Bead&Button magazine
I actually picked two pieces of jewelry, which turned out to be a bit of a challenge! The necklace on the right is a combination of large wood, glass, acrylic, and metal beads, all linked together in a two-strand style. It's perfectly nice, but kind of boring. The other piece is a two-strand crystal choker but instead of metal settings, the crystals are set in little white rubber cups. Rather strange! I wasn't sure how I was going to make these two very different pieces come together in a single piece.
For the bracelet I ended up making, I selected three disk-shaped metal beads from the first necklace and bezeled them with midnight blue 11/0 cylinders and 15/0 seed beads. Then I cut 12 of the crystals from the cup chain choker, leaving the crystals in the rubber cups, and bezeled them as well. I attached the bezeled crystals to the bezeled metal beads and used four faceted glass beads from the first necklace as spacers. Finally, I made two daisy chains with seed beads and some crystal rondelles from my stash to make bands to complete the bracelet. There are a few irregularities in my finished piece, as I refined my methods as I created my components, but ultimately I ended up with a bracelet I really like and will wear — made from two necklaces that just weren't my style.
KATHRYN KEIL, Content Editor,
Upcycling Kathryn Before

These earrings were the kind that I might have purchased at the mall in the 1980's. They're made from a very thin base metal that could not be soldered or cold-connected without fear of melting or splitting the metal! Essentially, junk. But the individual components spoke to me...


I took everything apart using a metal shears, and also snipped off the earring posts. I selected the best each of the sun, moon and planet charms, and turned them into more sturdy components by embedding each in resin, inside an open-backed bezel. The bezels, from the "Open Frame" line from Nunn Designs, were three different shapes and colors, and picked up on the slight coloration on the base metal components.

Upcycling Kathryn After

I first half-filled the bezels with Ice Resin, using a colorant to get the blue (for the moon) and the purple (for the sun), then swirled just a bit of the blue into some clear for the effect of clouds around the planet. After the first layer had hardened, I added the charms and filled the rest of the bezel with clear resin. 


For the necklace, I used two scraps of chain that I had in my stash, and actually cut another short length of chain into jump rings when I didn't have any conveniently at hand. I added the ribbon scrap threaded through the gold chain to mimic the night sky, and at the last minute, added the star charms from the original earrings. 

I love working with resin and experimenting with things to embed. Now, I have something to wear to Eclipse Viewing Parties!

FIND MORE: beads , resin , found object

Want to leave a comment?

Only registered members of are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
Get awesome news, tips, & free stuff!