Whether you're a newbie jewelry maker or a long-time crafter, you need the right supplies to keep the projects going. But expenses add up quickly with the tools, materials and everything in between. Our expert tips can save you money on all the necessities -- read on for eight ways to get jewelry supplies free or inexpensively.
Shop at Home
Often you can find the best supplies right in your own closet. Disassembling jewelry you never wear puts those dusty pieces to good use, especially if you only like certain parts of a piece. For example, you could repurpose the hooks from a pair of earrings and use the crystal drops from the earrings to create a necklace pendant. And you can't beat the price for your new supplies when you shop your own stash -- free.
Shop at Thrift Stores and Flea Markets
To find unique and inexpensive supplies, check out garage sales, thrift stores and flea markets. Not only can you find old jewelry to take apart, you might also come across a stash of vintage buttons, chains or charms. These items usually sell for very little money, given the secondhand nature. Take some time to examine pieces and look at how they're made. You never know what treasures you'll find.
Shop on eBay and Etsy
The vintage sections of eBay and Etsy are like online versions of a flea market. The only difference is that purchases are a click away, and you can browse items from all over the world. You can also buy new supplies from other countries, which tend to be cheaper than materials found in the U.S.. When searching for an item, set your results to be sorted from lowest price to highest so you can see the cheapest items first.
Shop the Clearance Section in Clothing Stores
When chain stores clear their inventory, many items get marked down and sent to the clearance section. Keep an eye out for jewelry and accessories that can be dismantled because they might just hold the materials for your next project. The necklace pictured, for example, cost just $1 at H&M. The chain could easily be repurposed for a project like this one, and the clasp and jump rings can be easily removed with jewelry pliers.
Ask Friends and Family for Unwanted Jewelry
Let your friends, family and co-workers know you collect old jewelry for craft projects. You never know who might be itching for a closet purge or a cleaning spree. Not only do you get to snag some new (and free) materials, your friends and family also get to see well-loved items put to good use. Once they know you use old jewelry, they will know to contact you in the future.
Buy in Bulk
Like most things, purchasing supplies in bulk saves you money in the long run. It's important to choose wisely. For example, 20 feet of basic silver chain is a better investment than a pound of purple triangle rhinestones. Because you always need the basics, like jump rings and beading wire, buying in bulk cuts costs from the beginning.
Use Unconventional Items
The amazing thing about jewelry making is that almost anything can be used. Experimenting with random items that you already own is a great way to turn ordinary elements into free jewelry supplies. The bracelets pictured were made with fabric scraps from old T-shirts and tights, something you probably already have. Think outside the box -- key rings, hair ties and bottle caps all make awesome jewelry supplies.
Shop Sales and Use Coupons
Social media and technology can be the key to saving money at your favorite craft store. Many companies have apps that feature coupons or weekly sales. This can help you determine what you're going to buy before you even get there. Special promotions are often announced on social media, so make sure to follow your favorite stores on all platforms. Some companies might even offer exclusive Web-only discounts.
Shop Post-Holiday Sales
As holidays come and go, craft stores have excellent promotions on specific supplies. These deals can save you anywhere from 30%-80% off the original price, depending on when you buy them. Items marketed as holiday-themed typically start to go on sale during the few weeks or days before the holiday. Afterward, the discounts drastically increase. The key to making this shopping tip work is knowing which supplies to buy. While Cupid charms and shamrock beads are more timely, items like red metallic chain and green seed beads can be used all year round.
Focus on solid colors and general shapes, like hearts and circles. It might take some digging around, but it is well worth it. For example, the five spools of colored wire pictured were sold as a set for Valentine's Day. A week after the holiday passed, the set dropped from $5 to just $1.50. While the color scheme is quite festive, each color is standard enough to be used on its own during any time of the year.