Recycled Jewelry: Using Chandelier Crystals and More in Jewelry Making

I've been going through some boxes in my studio, a little delayed spring cleaning if you will, sorting out supplies and stuff. Too much stuff. The words "stuff, stuff, stuff" keep going through my mind.

I have entirely too much stuff in my studio. The one saving factor is that it's a three-purpose room–it's also my office and it's also my craft room–which technically could allow me to have approximately three times the stuff. But even then, I'm over limit.


Why so much stuff, Tam? Because I love saving every pretty little thing I see that I think I can turn into recycled jewelry (or collage art, or cards, or who-knows-what someday). I sometimes buy vintage jewelry to recycle (and hopefully upcycle) into new jewelry; I'll take the perfectly patinated "pearls" from an old necklace and use them in a new piece, or elevate an orphaned earring or shoe clip into a starring role as a pendant (like the one on the right) or bold cocktail ring.

Rhinestones in anything are always a good choice, be it loose stones, rhinestone chain, brooches, or vintage whatever–I love it. Susan Lenart Kazmer must love rhinestones, too, because I see them sprinkled throughout her designs pretty often, and I'm always inspired by her work, mixing old and new, color and sparkle, metal fabrication and found-object innovation. 


Another one of my favorite pretties to recycle into jewelry is the lovely chandelier crystal. I've kept small boxes of old and new chandelier crystals for years; I used them to create sparkly, dangly bursts of light around the edges of side tables and lampshades for awhile, and plenty of them hang on my Christmas tree each December. I keep a bowl of them on the buffet in the dining room, just because, but a few years ago I was inspired to use them in jewelry when I saw what looked like chandelier crystals hanging from Miranda's earrings in the Sex and the City movie.


I couldn't imagine how heavy that would be and assumed hers were plastic, but then I tried and some of the smaller crystals actually weren't impossibly heavy for earrings, and their age gave them a worn, slightly less-sparkly-than-new look that I really liked. That led to me using them as pendants as well, which were even easier to wear.

At an art/craft show somewhere I saw chandelier crystals with large flat facets that had been painted with flowers, team names, and such, for use as sun catchers, ornaments, and window décor. I'm definitely not a painter, but I decided to try to find ways that I could use the crystals as beautiful canvases/bases for other kinds of art in jewelry, and a little bit of trial and error led me to . . . rub-ons!


Rub-ons have been a favorite material of mine since I was a little girl, and when they had a rebirth during the scrapbooking boom several years ago, they became versatile little works of art. Swirls, flourishes, and fleur-de-lis are fun designs to rub onto chandelier crystals to make instant glam pendants, but I also love putting words and monograms or letters on them, too. I recently read that "word" jewelry is hot for fall–I think it has been hot for awhile now! Plus using words or monograms on the crystals is a great way to use up the random alphabet rub-ons left in my stash after a project has used up most of the letters. I embellish the words, letters, and other designs with rhinestones, Swarovski Crystallized elements, and Susan Lenart Kazmer's ICED Enamels. Putting the ICED Enamels on the back makes the crystals look like big faceted gems. Teenaged girls, in particular, would love to wear and make them.

So the next time you see a pile of old chandelier crystals in a box at a yard sale or an antique store, think of them as sparkling glass canvases to build our jewelry designs on and snatch them up! And to learn more about the kind of recycled, upcycled, mixed media and found object jewelry that embodies Susan Lenart Kazmer's incredible jewelry-making style, and to see over a dozen other fun ways to add color to your jewelry, order or instantly download her new video tutorial 15+ Ways to Alter Metal Surfaces.

What's your favorite thing to recycle into fabulous jewelry? I'd love to hear in the comments below!

ICED Enamels by Susan Lenart Kazmer

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