How to make sustainable jewellery

We’re used to referring to old furniture and vintage clothes as being shabby chic; loving metal objects because of their patina – so why not extend the same respect to make sustainable jewellery?

Many of the items I am drawn to have lost their initial sheen and splendour  but for me they retain their beauty.

By and large, the core of these remains sound, and, more often than not, it’s just the gold plate that has started to wear away from use. Looking beyond the superficial, I’m keen on celebrating structure, both construction and design. When reimagining these items, my aim is not to disguise the wear brought on by age and use, but to spotlight it.

When a friend gave me this metal necklace, comprised five sections, it was easy to imagine what it looked like when it was a brand new gleaming item. Now, tarnished, it retains the beauty of its design and was still sturdy.

shabby chic necklace

Separating it out into its component parts, I’ve used two of the pairs as the basis for a couple of long beaded necklaces. The centrepiece is still in my workshop waiting for inspiration to strike.

shabby chic necklace

Another example, given to me by another good friend, is a rather chunky bracelet. Once again, this item has a beautiful design and a solid structure, but the gold plate had tarnished over the years. My solution was to turn it into the focal point of a necklace, supporting it with flat ceramic beads. I love the contrast of materials and colour.

shabby chic necklace

Sometimes, the issue is with small stones or faux pearl beads falling out of their settings. More often than not, this is only visible upon closer inspection, so for me, it adds to an item’s character – a nod to its birth in a former era. This was certainly the case with this brooch which not only has a few amethyst coloured stones missing, it’s pin had been removed and the gold plate had tarnished. Combining it with large shiny synthetic beads gives it a new lease of life – a true one-off creation.

shabby chic necklace


All in all you could say my motto is: “Don’t bin it, let me reimagine it”. 

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