Mixed Media Jewelry: Chips, Transistors, and Diodes, Oh My!

When Kerry Bogert’s “Waste Not, Want Not” bottle cap collage pendant project first crossed my desk for the February/March 2010 issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry, I immediately ordered some resin, and started saving our beer and soda bottle caps. As soon as the shipment of resin came in, I began creating these fantastic pendants out of wire scraps, seed beads, charms, and other stuff I had lying around my work table. When my first resin pour was a success, I was hooked!

bottle cap jewelry mixed media upcycled

One of my bottle cap rings. Look closely to see the computer chip, the green LED, a striped gold/black/red/yellow transistor, and a black rubber washer. All photos: Michael Richardson.

I evolved into making bottle cap rings and bottle cap “beads”, pairing them with plain chain and chain maille. But as I created these little treasures, I was also looking for something different to put into them. I guess I was looking for something more interesting to make my pieces stand out.

Endless Possibilities
Enter my husband, Mike. As a person who works with computers for a living, he has several old computers and computer parts in our house. While I was at work one day, he started taking apart an old computer. He took out a few circuit boards and grabbed my flush cutters (normally I would gasp if anyone else took my cutters, but I do trust him!) and started clipping off the tiny LEDs (light emitting diodes) and electronic transistors. When I returned home, there was a nice little collection in the container where he dumped the parts. That’s when I discovered that the possibilities are endless inside those black and grey boxes that we use in our every day lives.

Steampunk jewelry parts

Some of the many parts my husband plucked from one of his old computers. Endless possibilities!

I thought the idea was brilliant, and immediately began using these little pieces in my bottle caps. Before this discovery, I did have some old Steampunk vintage pieces and used little springs and watch gears in the collages. Now I’m using new-age computer parts…kind of like Steampunk, but from the 21st Century!

As my husband continued deconstructing the computer, he also found other larger metal parts that I can use for mixed-media jewelry focal pieces. The shapes and the contours of these parts can certainly be used for more avant-garde pieces, or could be cut, filed, and textured.

bottle cap upcycled mixed media jewelry

Top left: Bottle cap pendant with seed green seed beads, malachite, green craft wire, a green computer chip and a green LED, with gold-plated aluminum wire. Top right: Bottle cap pendant with dark pink seed beads, transistors, computer chip, dichroic bead, yellow telephone wire, and silver craft wire. Below: Part of a Byzantine bottle cap necklace. Pieces include red LEDs and transistors.

Play With Common Materials
It’s easy to experiment with mixed-media jewelry, just like Kerry and I have. With Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist’s eBook, 10 Mixed Media Jewelry Projects, you will discover more mixed-media jewelry making techniques on how to use recycled and eclectic materials in your jewelry. For instance, Eleanore Macnish took sugar sprinkles (if you’re like me, you call them “jimmies”), put them into bezels, and made them into earrings! Julie Jerman-Melka took a shard of pottery and turned it into a brooch. And Tom and Kay Benham use glitter to create a stained glass effect in their fabricated project.

I hope that these mixed-media jewelry projects and my experience inspire your own journey into upcycling and recycling. Don’t be afraid to play!

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