You can use found objects, household articles and discarded items and materials to make your own jewellery. Turn old clothes, smashed glass and crockery, discarded electrical equipment, broken jewellery and food or drinks packaging into unique accessories. Fun and inexpensive, junk jewellery can be zany or elegant, playful or restrained. You can create jewellery that proudly displays its upcycled origins as well as professional-looking pieces that you'd never know were made from recycled materials.
Plastics and Vinyl
The plastic used for soda bottles has many uses. For example, you can cut out shapes to make charms or cut strips to make bangles or to weave or twist. You can colour plastic with permanent markers or shrink bottle plastic in the oven or with a heat gun. Wind strips around pliers and heat them to make beads or turn soft vinyl into collars and wristbands, punching a hole in the ends to thread it with ribbon. If you soften old vinyl records in the oven you can cut and shape them into jewellery.
Metal and Wire
Cut up aluminium drink cans and tape the edges to make wrist or arm cuffs or use pretty or interesting can designs as jewellery motifs. You can press small sections of soda cans into epoxy putty or polymer clay to mimic enamel jewellery or thread ring-pulls onto leather thongs or ribbon. Wire is also a useful jewellery material. You can twist discarded wire into designs, or thread it with beads. Use colourful insulated wire to make bright, funky jewellery, or remove the coating to expose the metal. Cut insulation up to make beads and string them on a ribbon for a pretty design.
Fabric and Ribbon
Cut old clothes into strips and braid the strips together into headbands, cuffs and neckbands. You can fold offcuts of fabric or ribbon into rosettes, flowers and other shapes and sew them to headbands, barrettes or brooch backs. Sew fabric over wire or plastic to make bangles. Embellish recycled fabric pieces with buttons, beads and safety pins. Knot strips of stretchy fabric like torn pantyhose together, or stretch them over a wire frame to make bracelets or headbands.
Glass and Ceramics
If you have broken dishes around, you don't have to throw them away. Instead, you can use them to make unique jewellery. For example, you can file down the sharp edges of broken glass or crockery shards and drill holes for wire loops. Connect sections together or hang individual pieces from a thong or a chain. Wrap sea-glass with wire. Glue glass shards to metal jewellery blanks with clear epoxy cement, or press them into epoxy putty over a piece of foil.
Varnish small pebbles to bring out the colour and incorporate them into your jewellery pieces. Alternatively, paint them to look like gemstones. Cut up wooden pencils for beads. Sand and varnish plywood offcuts to make earrings or pendants. If you've been eating fruit, save and paint the larger fruit seeds and pips (such as melon seeds) and varnish them to make beads. You can also drill and sand pieces of nut shell for beads. If you take a trip to a beach, pick up seashells to use for jewellery.
Buttons, Beads and Found Objects
Glue or sew buttons onto ring blanks or brooch backs. Stack buttons of different sizes to make earrings or pendants. Turn a broken drawer pull into a pendant by adding a wire loop and threading it onto a chain or ribbon. Melt plastic beads in the oven or with a heat gun to make new shapes. Set pieces of broken jewellery, mismatched earrings, watch parts and small toys in clear plastic resin for a fun and different necklace or pair of earrings.
If you have lots of scrap paper around, turn it into something special. Cut paper into strips, put glue on them and wind them into beads. Seal with a découpage medium or clear varnish. Glue small images from old newspapers or magazines to the back of a flat-backed marble or glass tile to make a pendant or brooch. You can also laminate images and turn them into earrings or pendants.