Studio Notes on Jewelry Design: Making Luxury Useful

A post in the New York Times recently tipped me off that jewelry design house Tiffany & Co. excels at making everyday objects. Designed with a twist, they do come with a pretty hefty price tag. But you can’t match Tiffany quality.

The beauty of this creative company is that its products could inspire you to create your own practical luxury. Think of ways to make handy key chains, beaded serving pieces, small trays out of woven silver wire, bookmarks, hair clips, umbrella handles, buttons, lamp pulls, drawer pulls. Then consider a cake tester for your Mum, an etched ID plate for your smartphone, a decorative safety pin . . .

Direct knock offs are a no-no. Yes yes? Instead, use these ideas for jewelry design and luxury item inspiration. Then think up your own spin on luxurious everyday objects for yourself, friends and customers.

Make Your Own Luxurious Everyday Objects

Here are a couple ideas:

·         Sterling silver crazy straw, $250; available in gold vermeil for $350. For a simple substitute, polish up a piece of sterling silver tubing for about $20. Then solder on a domed disk at the bottom to serve as a handy spoon.

·         Magnifying glass pendant by Elsa Peretti, ruthenium over copper, $135. Find an old magnifying lens. Decorate the handle with wire-wrapped bead work or other jewelry design. Or make a cabochon setting for a loose lens, solder it to the handle of a sterling silver fork, and then set the glass as if it were a stone.

·         Sterling silver paper clip book mark, $165; Prada offers a money clip version for $185. Buy one foot of 10-gauge sterling silver wire for about $17. Practice with 10-gauge copper wire from a building supply company. Anneal sterling silver wire and straighten, by rolling on a counter top and pressing it with a bench block. Re-anneal and bend on a jig. Harden in tumbler, then polish. ‘Course it will probably be kind of wonky and won’t have the cool Tiffany & Co. logo. But hey, it’s a sterling paper clip.

·         Sterling silver and wood harmonica, $385. Buy a Fender Blues deluxe harmonica for about $12. Next, unscrew the top and bottom metal plates and send them to your favorite silverplating company. OK, OK. One expert informs me you can’t plate over chrome or aluminum. So this may not be as easy as it looks. But you could make your own metal plates using your jewelry design skills.

·         Buy a plastic shoehorn. Sand off all markings to reduce some of its weight. Have it cast in sterling silver. Or cut and forge one out of a sheet of 16-gauge sterling silver.

make luxury useful with jewelry design and metalsmithing skills

Source: Tiffany & Co.

Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. In the March and April issue, she will be reporting on writing grants, Kate Wolf’s wax carving class and 3D scanning and printing.You can reach her at

Learn more about silversmithing and making luxury silver items with these resources!


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