7 Tips For Getting Started With Vintage Jewelry Design

June 15, 2020

Miraculous medal charm bracelet locket rhinestones

While I don't blog about it anymore, I'm a jewelry designer. As a matter of fact, that's how my blog began -- as a way to showcase my vintage jewelry designs. I even sold my jewelry in an Etsy shop. You might say I had a real passion for it. But somewhere along the line it took a back seat to, well, life, and the blog went more in the direction of vintage finds and thrifty DIY home decor. But I recently got the itch to create and can't wait to share my most recent design with you, as well as a few tips for those of you who think you might want to try your hand at jewelry making (and even those of you who don't -- you never know until you try, right?)

 craft store jewelry beads bee charm

Since I hadn't really designed any new jewelry for quite some time, I literally forgot what I had in my stash. And by stash I mean years' worth of vintage jewelry (full pieces and sometimes just parts) and religious medals and rosaries that had been collected over many years of thrifting and junking trips. And that doesn't even include the contemporary beads, charms and findings I have amassed as well.

clear faceted crystal beads

vintage charms brooch amethyst pearl earrings rhinestones vintage cupcake tin

I went through every box and bag and storage container to review my inventory, and begin planning a design. I use vintage cupcake tins and tart tins to store many of my jewelry-making supplies.
 beads pearls earrings vintage tart tin containers

That way you can see at a glance what you have to work with. You can read all about it in How To Organize Your Jewelry -- Vintage Style! And yes, this blog used to be called Charm Bracelet Diva {At Home}, which is why you see that written on some of the photos.

copper heart Valaree amethyst silhouette rhinestones

Here you can see a true mix of vintage and contemporary jewelry.

3-D silver heart charm amethyst brooch gold monogrammed locket

This is just a peek at some of the pieces I considered using in my design. The silver hearts are from an old key chain. The monogrammed locket was a flea market find. The vintage cage with pearls charm necklace was another flea market find, as was the vintage copper heart necklace with the name Valaree on it. The large vintage purple stone that looks like a brooch is actually part of a vintage bracelet hat I took apart.

Our Lady of Mercy charm vintage Remy key mini Illinois license plate

Here you can see many of the religious charms I considered for the design, as well as a rusty vintage key and vintage mini Illinois license plate, also from a key chain.

vintage The Ten Commandments charm bracelet

This Ten Commandments charm bracelet is one of my all-time favorite finds. 

1st 2nd 3rd 4th Commandment charms

I don't know how old it is, just that it's O-L-D. Vintage for sure. I liked it so much that I hesitated to take it apart for the charms, but I knew it was time. I chose to use the 8th commandment charm: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

religious medals charms rhinestones beads locket crucifix

 My new creation ended up being (as per my usual) a combination of vintage charms, including vintage religious charms, as well as pieces taken from other jewelry creations that I turned into charms. I also threw in a few contemporary charms to spice things up. Oh and beads, can't forget the beads.

I'm also a bling lover, truth be told. When making my charm bracelets I always try to strike a balance with regard to metals and beads and bling. A long time ago I determined that my favorite mix will always consist of different metals -- copper, pewter, gold, silver -- as well as either pearls and/or faceted crystal beads. Using crystal beads is a great way to add sparkle without going full force with the use of  rhinestones. Don't get me wrong, I love vintage rhinestones, too.

vintage silver Remy key St. Anthony's Home Detroit MI charm

silver antique brass queen bee charm Remy key

And if you haven't figured it out yet, it's my opinion that when making charm bracelets more is more. The fuller the better. Not that there's never a time for simplicity, but in most instances I go for a chock-full-of-charms design. This bracelet was made with 18 charms and 8 faceted crystal beads and rhinestone ball charms. Whenever I wear one of these bracelets out in public it inevitably gets attention -- which of course makes me feel pretty good!

For illustration purposes, I thought I'd provide you with a list of the actual charms I ended up using for this bracelet:

1. vintage Pilot International (humanitarian group) charm
2. Irish dance shoe
3. vintage silver heart charm taken from key chain
4. vintage pearls in metal cage charm taken from necklace
5. vintage 8th Commandment charm
6. new gold sphere filled with bling charm
7. vintage brass heart with tiny amethyst (my birthstone) and the name "Valaree" engraved on it (taken from necklace)
8. vintage Four Way Cross charm
9. new queen bee charm 
10. vintage REMY key
11. vintage monogrammed locket
12. vintage Our Lady of Mercy 1887-1962 anniversary medal
13. vintage St. Anthony's Home (Detroit, MI) oversized charm
14. vintage girl with ponytail silhouette charm
15. new antique brass angel wing
16. vintage mini Illinois license plate charm taken from key chain 
17. vintage Miraculous medal
18. 2nd Irish dance shoe    

 As you can see, they run the gamut from old to new and religious to secular and shiny to dull. The more the merrier.

  7 Tips For Getting Started With Vintage Jewelry Design

1. When I first started out, all I had was my curiosity and YouTube videos. Seriously. I looked up basic jewelry-making videos (charm bracelets and necklaces) and went from there. The videos taught me not only the basic skills to start out with, but they also showed me what supplies I would need in order to get started. You do not need to spend a lot of money to get started. 

2. Next, create a stash of jewelry findings (the things you actually use to put your creation together with) and vintage pieces, as well as other supplies. I tend to mix vintage with contemporary so I'm fine with checking out Michael's and JoAnn's or Hobby Lobby when they have sales or coupons for jewelry findings, beads and charms. 

3. Don't be afraid to mix metals! There was a time I would NEVER do this, but that time is gone. I  believe the different colored metals, together, add great visual contrast to any piece -- whether it be silver, brass, copper, antique brass, etc.

4. Find a reasonably priced, reliable source for your findings and other supplies. I get my antique brass findings from Etsy and more contemporary needs from craft stores.

5. Start attending flea markets, auctions, estate sales, barn sales, church bazaars, thrift stores and anywhere else that sells "junk" because -- trust me on this -- you never know what you're going to find. Don't be afraid to take old jewelry apart. Try to think outside the box. I've turned vintage earrings and necklaces into charms for my bracelets. I've glued parts of different pieces together to create a whole new piece of jewelry. I use vintage medals and rosaries in my designs. Even if you're not religious, when mixed in with other non-religious charms, those vintage medals and rosary beads can also be viewed as pieces of history.   

6. Have patience with yourself and your ability. There will always be a learning curve in proportion to the difficulty of the skill you're trying to learn. It's okay to make mistakes and, yes, even bad jewelry. When I look back at some of my first designs I literally cringe. Yet after sticking to it, I was able to have a successful Etsy jewelry shop and even sold at craft fairs and in local boutiques. Go easy on yourself. First and foremost, it should be fun!   

7. Most importantly, give yourself some time to find your unique style. It took me a while to get into the groove of making charm bracelets and necklaces that reflected my true style. It will take you a while, too. And that's okay. You can do this!  

Miraculous medal four way cross charm pearls rhinestones Irish dance shoe charm

Well, that's it until next time, friends! 

 I hope you enjoyed reading 
7 Tips For Getting Started 
With Vintage Jewelry Design
and that I've inspired you in some way. 

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Miraculous medal charm bracelet locket rhinestones

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Leave a Comment!

My thrift store addiction said...

So many lovely trinkets, Kathleen and what great tips!

Junkchiccottage said...

Great tips Kathleen and I know with your creative soul you create very beautiful pieces of jewelry. I had to smile because I had that exact 10 commandments bracelet when I was a kid mine was silver. I wish I still had that. Have a good rest of the week.

Kathy said...

I really enjoyed this post; great info. I have a stash of jewelry findings--mostly pierced earring stuff, jump rings, and pin backs. I am addicted to beads (along with my dollhouse minis, milk glass, and cobalt glass). During "lockdown" I have made some pins and a lot of earrings for my booth, the church bazaar, and for gifts. Some are very simple, others are definitely Boho; we will see what sells!

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

Lots of great hints, Kathleen! My daughter and I love making vintage jewelry, too...so pretty!

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