Creating Your Own Costume Jewelry

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The popularity of costume jewelry has skyrocketed over the last few years, and it's easy to see why. Costume pieces don't contain the most precious stones, so they are far less expensive than fine jewelry--unless you're collecting vintage costume jewelry, which can sell for surprisingly high amounts. Costume jewelry can suit any style or mood, from bright and fun to dark and mysterious, from cutting-edge trendy to old-school Art Deco. Perhaps the best thing about costume jewelry is that you can make it yourself, creating pieces infused with your own vision and personality.

If you're new to the idea, you may want to get a kit or check out a how-to book that gives step by step instructions. You can take a class, but you'll likely spend more time picking out the beads you want to use than you will on learning how to put the jewelry together, because it is so easy to learn. So let's look at what you'll need to get started.


  • Chain or Needle Nose Pliers. This is the tool you'll use most often in making costume jewelry, so get a nice one with a comfortable grip.
  • Round Nose Pliers. This tool is ideal for making loops, links, and winding wire, because it helps you create a better round shape.
  • Wire Cutter. An absolute must to make the cleanest cuts possible in wires. Scissors can be used in a pinch, but they tend to mess up the metal you're working with.
  • Glue. There are so many options, you really have to experiment and find what you like to work with. The primary stipulation is to use a glue that adheres metal and doesn't require a perfectly adjoining surface to bond. Hot glue can be used, but it won't always hold reliably. Epoxy can be good, if you get a variety that doesn't set too fast for your jewelry-making speed.
  • Jewelry Base. To make necklaces, bracelets or anklets, you have to start with a base on which to string beads, etc. You can use anything from yarn to leather to memory wire.


There are a huge variety of costume jewelry parts that fit in this category. All the parts in jewelry that make it possible for you to actually wear them are called findings.

  • Includes such parts as clasps and links for necklaces and bracelets; pins; posts, wires and backs for earrings.
  • Findings are made from plastics and metals including copper, gold and sterling silver, so you can always match the findings to your jewelry creation.

If you're confused about what findings to use, examine your existing jewelry or browse through the jewelry section at the store. You'll learn a lot about different findings and how to put them to work in your own designs.


Costume jewelry creation uses all sorts of decorations. You can string carved pendant pieces, separated by round metal spacers. Or, go wild with beads. You'll find a huge variety including semi-precious stones from aquamarine to jade, wood, ceramic, shell, epoxy resin, glass, crystal, metal and more. Beads come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Tips for a Smooth Start

Before you run off to the craft or beading specialty store, narrow down your interest. Do you want to try a necklace or earrings? A bracelet or a pin? Pick one project to work on first.

Once you've decided on the project, what materials do you want? Glass and sterling silver? Wood and leather? Gold and Austrian crystals? While the urge will be there to try everything, try to focus on one project at a time.

While you're at the supply store, staring at all the wonderful variety of pieces and parts, it's hard to resist the urge to buy everything. More than one beginning jewelry maker has gone home with several hundred dollars worth of bits and pieces, and never finished a single jewelry item. Keep it simple when starting out.

You might also get something in which to keep all of your jewelry-making supplies. A basket or one of the plastic craft drawer sets would be handy. Also, think about where you'll be working on your costume jewelry project. Do you have a table in a specific room that you can devote to this? Or will you be using the kitchen table? Will your project need to be portable? The answers to these questions can help you decide what sort of storage containers and organization methods will work better for you.

The most important tip of all is this: remember that you're supposed to have fun! If you don't enjoy working with itty bitty pieces, then making tiny beaded earrings is probably going to be less enjoyable than stringing a long, chunky necklace.

So do your homework, gather your materials, and create. When you're done and someone asks where you got that stunning piece of costume jewelry, you'll have the pleasure of saying "I made it!"

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