How to Make Jewelry From Vintage Junk Jewelry


Take a second look at any vintage jewelry you may own or run across in a thrift store. Vintage junk jewelry is a gold mine for jewelry makers, who can take the bits and pieces of these rhinestones in the rough and create all new pieces that combine the best of the new and the old.

Things You'll Need

  • Chain nose pliers
  • Round nose pliers
  • Crimping pliers
  • Scissors
  • File
  • Jeweler's glue
  • Elastic cord
  • Beading wire
  • Jump rings
  • Crimping beads
  • Head pins
  • Eye pins
  • Findings
  • Spacer beads
  • Millimeter gauge
  • Determine what is to be salvaged from the junk jewelry. Discard heavily corroded metal pieces, rhinestones that have lost their foiled backing or have turned cloudy and plastic or acrylic beads that are peeling or have a rough texture--these are difficult or impossible to salvage.

  • Create brooches from mismatched post or clip-on earrings by gently breaking off the post or clip mechanism with pliers. Sand down any rough edges with a file. Attach a pin finding to the back with jeweler's glue or you can make a pin/pendant by using a convertible pin finding instead.

  • Make a bracelet or necklace from the remains of several junk strands of beads. Mix and match vintage beads or add new beads in coordinating sizes and colors. Add your own spacer beads and findings.

  • Use odd lengths of old necklaces to make a new necklace by attaching the chains to a multi-row clasp with jump rings. Mix the old chains with bead strands or new chains for an even more creative design.

  • Reset prong-set paste jewels into your own findings. Gently pry the jewels out of the old sets, measure the size with a millimeter gauge and set into ring or earring castings of corresponding sizes.

Tips & Warnings

  • Scour flea markets, thrift stores and yard sales for vintage jewelry and buy in bulk when possible. If the seller has separate prices on several items you're interested in, offer one price for the lot.
  • Many vintage plastic and acrylic beads were glued together, although they may appear to have been strung on thread. These are often impossible to remove from the glued-on stringing and are hard to reuse. Test bead strands by attempting to rotate individual beads; if the whole strand moves, the beads have been glued.
  • Sometimes vintage beaded necklaces and bracelets need only a restringing and/or replacement of clasps to be ready to wear. It's always a good idea to restring old bead strands, as they were often strung on silk or cotton threads that degrade over time. Restring on nylon or beading wire and replace clasps that may have become weak or corroded over the years.
  • Take care when cleaning vintage jewelry. Never soak items; this can corrode metals, destroy the foiling on rhinestones or ruin plastics. Clean metal, glass beads and rhinestones with a soft cloth barely dampened with Windex. Clean plastics and woods with a soft cloth barely dampened with furniture polish.

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  • Photo Credit jewelry image by Dusan Radivojevic from
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