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Ideas for making low cost jewelry

Updated on October 12, 2012

My Background

After years of thrift and consignment shopping for all the best clothes at the lowest prices it dawned on me that I did not have the proper accessories for each outfit. As I started buying cheap costume jewelry to accessorize I realized that I was making a lot of changes to the jewelry to make it just right for me. As I started removing what I thought was too heavy, attachments that I didn't like, etc, it dawned on me that perhaps I could make my own that would be exactly what I wanted without all of the fuss and it would cost me a lot less if I could find the components at reasonable prices.

It just made sense. If I could dress myself for less, why couldn't I accessorize my outfits as well?

Here's where I began:

While shopping in a local flea market I found a booth that was filled with box tops full of broken jewelry. As I looked through all of this broken mess I saw pieces that must have been wonderful in their day and wondered how they could be repurposed into something cool again.

Something caught my eye: There in the midst of all of this was a strand of glass beads that had once been part of a beaded door curtain. As I was mesmerized by their appearance and calculating in my head just how many pairs of earrings could be made from them, I heard the magic words. ONE DOLLAR!

On my way home I stopped by my local craft shop, Pat Catan's and bought earrings. I didn't need anything else because they were equipped with all that I needed to pull off this project.

Success! But now I'm hooked...

Enter THE MONSTER!

When I saw how easy it was I quickly started researching all that I could on the internet about jewelry making and what supplies would be needed to do it. Not one for arts and crafts because of the huge mess it makes and the room it takes up I pondered whether I would be able to stand the clutter just to make myself happy. I had things to consider before my decision was made:

Q: I have the attention span of an ant. Could I stay interested after purchasing many items to make the jewelry or would I tire of it quickly and move on to bigger and better things?

A: I have been making jewelry for over two years and have never stopped. Jewelry can be made quickly and provide the instant gratification that I am looking for. There are so many directions to go when making jewelry that you cannot possibly tire of it quickly.

Q: Will I make jewelry for myself or make a second career of it and sell it for profit?

A: Yes and Yes! As I am my biggest billboard for sales I make my own jewelry and market it to others for sale. I consign jewelry at a local consignment shop and use the money made in sales to "trade" for future purchases from that shop, sell to individuals at work as well as online via facebook and email notifications, make catalogs and circulate them, and have set up tables at local craft fairs and art fairs.

Q: What types of materials will I use?

A: Being a thrifty person it just makes sense to use base metal materials. I want to sell items for a price that I would be willing to pay. Having constant access to secondhand stores I realized that re purposed jewelry was another low cost option for supplies.


Getting Started: TOOLS

Tools can be purchased at reasonable costs and you may find that you already have them. Before going crazy at a craft store and paying a great deal more than you should, please check your local tool supply stores (my favorite is Harbor Freight) for these same items (MINUS THE CUTESY PASTEL COLORS) at a fraction of the cost. Here are some staple items you will need to get started:

Supplies

My first big break:

Our local Sheriff's wife was having a garage sale and I inquired as to whether she had any beads or jewelry making supplies for sale. She informed me that she had just used a beads for her son's wedding to enhance the plain chair covers at the reception and she had a ton of them. Can you say JACKPOT?? I bought the whole lot for $80 and wondered what I would make with them. I only knew how to make earrings at that point, so could I really sell that many to make my money back? Umm..YEAH! Sold over $600. Sweet!

Call me cheap, frugal, or whatever, but believe it or not I do have champagne taste for a beer budget! As a self-proclaimed QUEEN OF THRIFT I have also managed to incorporate those thoughts into purchasing supplies for my jewelry making. Here's some ideas:

1. EBAY: It's a buyer's market right now. Go onto Ebay under "crafts" category and hit search. Now browse by "Beads and Jewelry Making." Now sort this list by "Time: ending soonest". Make sure you are signed in as you don't want to miss any good deals!

As most of these items are coming from China, look for any deals that include FREE SHIPPING. You can purchase so many items on here that you need for your projects for a fraction of the cost. Now you can imagine how the big name craft stores are doing it. They are buying in bulk, breaking it down and repackaging to make huge profits.

The downside? Maybe you don't need as many of these items as you are buying for a fraction of the cost. Use what you want and sell the excess. You've still got it at a cheaper rate that purchasing at local stores. Since you are buying from other countries you'll also have to wait as much as 30 days to receive your items. Be patient. It's worth the wait.

2. Local Craft stores: It's great to be able to purchase what you need and get it when you wanted, but there are also negative aspects of doing this. In my travels I find that these craft stores have a little of everything but not everything that you need to complete your project. Don't get me wrong, I still shop them regularly but it doesn't end there. I don't want to show up at a craft show and have several tables of the similar variation of products because that's what I had to choose from at my local stores.

3. Etsy.com: If you have never been on this site you are missing a great treat! It is an auction site exclusively for handmade items, supplies and vintage items that are more than 20 years old. Not only can you purchase items here without haggling prices, you can sell your excess supplies that you got at a reasonable price! It is one of the best sites for showcasing talent that I've ever seen.

4. Resale Shops: Not only can you buy bags of broken goodies for re purposing at a reasonable price, you can also find great beads and findings that you won't find anywhere else. From vintage to funky to retro to chic, they've got it all!

5. Kindness of others: When people realize that you are making jewelry they will be more than happy to give you the junk jewelry they have in exchange for your handmade jewelry. Don't stop at just jewelry, buttons make wonderful jewelry as well. The possibilities are endless.

6. Internet: Perhaps your most important tool. I have found several places for my supplies (that's a whole other blog in itself) in which I purchase supplies and materials as well as packaging and marketing my jewelry. Searches should include: wholesale jewelry findings, wholesale jewelry supplies, etc. Take notice of the shipping costs. Sometimes it is indeed worth paying the high cost of shipping considering what you will get for your money. As you pursue your career in jewelry making you will understand why I say this. When you order bulk items such as french ear wires, jump rings and other jewelry findings you will find that ordering them by the thousands is much more convenient than by the hundreds.

Some supplies I order in bulk

Packaging

After trying several different ways of packaging my items for sale I have settled for this method:

Carded on either cardstock or scrap booking stock and then placed in cello bags

Why?

-They are appealing to the eye

-They are portable and ready to go

-Base metals tend to oxidize (don't worry, Sterling silver does too) and are to be kept in plastic to avoid this

-If for some reason they have not been constructed correctly, any loose items will be contained within the bag to restructure.


I also like to offer an added bonus to purchasing my products. I buy low cost printed paper bags (animal print, of course) in various sizes to put their purchases in. These can be found at any jewelry supply store or internet site)

The black bag shown here is actually a salesman's jewelry display case that makes your life much easier if you plan to sell jewelry. You purchase these online as well at jewelry supply sites and then you buy the stacking tray inserts to go with them. (Note: If you pay more than $20 for them you've paid way too much). The stacking tray inserts (Do not buy the inserts unless they are stacking) come in various depths and I would not bother with 1" at all. Don't pay more than $4 for these. They also have various inserts for the trays such as ring foam inserts that are very helpful for both display and transport. You can usually outfit one bag for under $40 with trays and inserts, but you'll need to shop around. Nilecorp.com and jewelrysupply.com are two of my favorite sites for these. I have 5 of them now, both the small and large bags.


Ready to re purpose

Re purposed Jewelry

Perhaps the most fun in jewelry making is when you have discarded components that you envision as something else. Be creative. I am a big fan of making things out of what isn't!

Traditional Jewelry

It's always fun to start with a pile of things and see what you can come up with. Here are some of my creations. Notice that there are different colored materials and that you will need findings to match each color should you choose to use them.

Lache La Femme Jewelry and Gifts

Storage

Now that you've decided that you want to make jewelry you will need to have a dedicated space for your supplies. As your supplies grow your storage needs will change. I started out with spice jars and moved on to canning jars. Before I knew it I had graduated to clear plastic shoe boxes and tubs. Your needs will be dictated by the space available for your craft.

Regardless of your needs, make sure that the space you pick from your project does not interrupt the flow of your normal household. Make it a room or portion of your basement that is not well traveled. Set yourself up with a portable DVD player for music and television to keep you company. Relax and enjoy your creativity!

Inexpensive Gift Giving

One of the wonderful things about making jewelry is that you will always have gifts on hand for special occasions. Whether it is a "thank you for inviting me into your home", birthday or other celebration you've got it covered as long as you have unisex items on hand for these occasions.

The best part? It didn't cost you a bundle to make it!

The key to success

Let's face it. I'm an assembler. Save the big buck jewelry for the professionals! If I had a true talent such as soldering and hand crafting metals and such, then I would charge accordingly. Right now I'm having fun, creating jewelry at a very low cost to me and offering it to friends, family and shoppers for a price they can afford and are willing to pay.

Be sure to price your goodies at a reasonable rate that will both compensate you for your time and effort as well as guarantee that you have repeat customers.

Here's a prime example of the benefits of providing low cost jewelry and the profit that could be made:

I showed up at a local art fair that cost me $45 for a 12' x 12' space and $5 for parking. I set up an easy up tent and two tables for my jewelry. Nothing on the tables cost more than $4 and I sold over $450 in less than 5 hours.

It is my belief that the majority of people spending money right now are between the ages of 6 and 36 and I make jewelry that would appeal to that age span. I also feel that profits from high priced items should be left to the truly gifted individuals who produce them.

I could take the same items to a craft show and not even make enough to cover the cost of the table, but I also understand that my target audience is not likely to attend a craft show.

When making reservations for selling space you should always consider the audience you will receive and make your items to suit that audience.


What have we learned here?

By now you get the picture that I really did not have to invest in many tools to get started and I learned quickly that supplies could be purchased at a very low cost if I researched pricing.

There are several different and more costly aspects you could explore when making jewelry. I recommend starting with this method first to see if it is something you plan to pursue before spending a great deal of money buying tools and machinery to create much more elaborate jewelry.

There are several sites available for "FREE" on the internet that provide jewelry making tutorials. The world is yours to explore freely and make your collection exactly what you want it to be.

Marketing your items:

Because everyone has different tastes you cannot expect the support of your friends and family. Don't take it personal. Some people just don't wear anything but expensive jewelry. Some people may have allergies to base metals. Some just may not be into what you are making. While I have a core group of friends who support me in just about everything I do I don't expect them to support me by buying unwanted jewelry. Those same friends are quick to offer a referral when someone is looking for jewelry or to donate their unwanted jewelry for your efforts. Either way, thank them for their support.

Think of ways to market your jewelry. Set up open houses, craft shows, etc. Don't let it discourage you. You'll find your market. Until then, keep smiling and piling!

What to do next?

In my two years I have made earrings, necklaces, bracelets, ankle bracelets, rings, key rings, etc. I will continue these projects and have decided to add to my selections by making leather bracelets from up cycled leather belts. I have ordered the snap kits and tools from China and will patiently wait to receive these items.

I'll keep you posted!

My Stash:

I do know one thing for sure. If I continue to make jewelry I will indeed need another bedroom to serve as a dressing room. The best thing about it is the fact that I have something to match every outfit. If I don't, I merely go to my stash and make something suitable for the occasion. Here is an example of what I have both purchased and made in the last two years for myself. I re purposed a baby bed rail that is now a necklace and bracelet hanger and the earrings are hung on cards on simple wire laundry room shelving purchased at a local hardware store for pretty cheap.

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    • heathersgreatcat profile image

      Heather Walton 2 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Awesome article. I never thought of looking at Harbor Freight for inexpensive tools but will definitely check that out. I have been creating jewelry using antique buttons since 2009. I'm sure if I total up all my expenses for supplies and tools I would burst into tears. I love the idea of selling lots of inexpensively priced jewelry at craft shows. Thanks for all your inspiration and classy photos.

    • profile image

      sara 5 years ago

    • mybestadvice profile image
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      mybestadvice 5 years ago from Canton, Ohio

      Thanks, Joy. That's inspiration to me because I've been beating myself up lately thinking I'm not marketing my stuff enough. There's only so much your friends are willing to buy. I've got so many directions, ideas, etc that it drives me crazy sometimes. Stick with it and it will come to you. My ideas seem to be inspired by my own frugal ways. If I can do it for cheap and keep my cost down, I'm in! I've graduated to shrinky dink jewelry now and is it a blast. Haven't sold any yet, I'll keep you posted!

    • Joy56 profile image

      Joy56 5 years ago

      This hub left me so jealous of your achievments and sad you do not live round the corner to give me even more inspiration..... Even though i am a hubber, can you believe i found you through google.

      I am learning to make jewellery now and at the very early stages.... you are so amazing..... really good hub well put together and so informative.

    • mybestadvice profile image
      Author

      mybestadvice 5 years ago from Canton, Ohio

      Thanks, B&B, it really isn't that difficult. I started with earrings and have added new stuff along the way. I'm pleased at what I'm doing now and can only get better and more inventive as time goes by.

    • bloomsandbugs profile image

      Anshu 5 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      This was a very interesting article. I have sometimes tried to make my own jewelry just to satisfy the creative urge...but this article tells the story of someone who took it to a whole new level...Kudos!

      Loved reading your story.

    • profile image

      Ronnie 5 years ago

      Very informative and interesting, Thanks

    • mybestadvice profile image
      Author

      mybestadvice 5 years ago from Canton, Ohio

      Thanks for all of the positive comments. I look forward to providing you with other tips and tricks in the future.

    • Marla Neogra profile image

      Marla J Neogra 5 years ago from Parkersburg, West Virginia

      You have a lot of creativity and the hub is great. I voted up.

    • profile image

      Edie 5 years ago

      Love your advice! Etsy is great! I made myself a complete "Pandora" bracelet full of beads purchased through Etsy. It was waaaaaay cheaper than buying it at a jewelers, and most of the beads and charms were $8 or less, and say "Pandora" right on them.

    • profile image

      Cindy A. 5 years ago

      Love your Blog!! Great ideas and tips!!! :)

    • mybestadvice profile image
      Author

      mybestadvice 5 years ago from Canton, Ohio

      Thanks so much, Jan.

    • profile image

      Becky 5 years ago

      Great blog!

    • profile image

      Jan 5 years ago

      This is great, Kerry!

    • mybestadvice profile image
      Author

      mybestadvice 5 years ago from Canton, Ohio

      Thanks so much!