Recycling Ideas

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

‘Waste not, want not’ – we look at fab recycling ideas for making jewellery pieces inspired by five designers from around the world. By Julie Bonnar

Suitable for the eco-conscious among us, recycled jewellery also has real vintage charm and style. Trash provides great materials for jewellery making and there's nothing more satisfying than making something new from something old!


Forget about the lack of biscuits inside and use the beautiful tin to create stunning pieces of jewellery. Kate Hamilton-Hunter made her first jewellery designs from old patterned biscuit, cake, sweet and toffee tins, each with echoes of days gone by. The tins that you use needn't be vintage - there are plenty of modern ones to choose from, especially around seasonal times such as Christmas. Many tins tell stories, which can be translated into necklaces and bracelets.
Designed by Kate Hamilton-Hunter,


We all get through plenty of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, particularly from using water bottles - so why not put them to a good use? Canadian-born artist Kumvana Gomani, who is based in Sweden, turns her PET waste plastic into filigreed shards of plastic that she reclaims from old water bottles and ice-cream cartons. This wintery necklace is just like snowflakes, where no two are alike!

Designed by Kumvana Gomani


Magazine pages are glossy and colourful, so are ideal for making beads and covering plain jewellery blanks. These bracelets from Squishy Sushi show off their love of the planet and recycling by carefully wrapping magazine scraps around sustainable wooden blanks and coating them with a sealer for a glossy finish. For different textures and styles, replace magazines with sweet wrappers and decorative wrapping paper. 

Designed by Squishy Sushi,


If you're looking for stylish ways to use up all those odd buttons or even new quirky unusual buttons, making a bracelet is a great way to show them off! Sometimes a simple idea is the most stylish - this bracelet by Sharon Perry of SP Jewellery turns four-hole buttons into a charm bracelet using green, blue and aqua. The result is as pretty as using gemstones!

Designed by Sharon Perry, SP Jewellery,


Make a real fashion statement and turn bottle caps into pendants and bracelets in the style of Yoav Kotik, the 52-year-old industrial designer from Israel behind Kotik Designs. Yoav makes jewellery mainly from drinks and beer bottle caps from different places and cultures.

Designed by Yoav Kotik,



Cutting tins

Here are some tips for cutting tins (which are really made from pressed steel!). 

  • Clean and dry the empty tin thoroughly before using. 
  • Use a permanent marker pen to draw your design onto the tin.
  • Place the tin in the freezer for a couple of hours - a frozen tin is easily to cut and hammer and reduces the spring in the tin!
  • Create a small starting hole to slip the hacksaw blade through.
  • Some tins can be cut with heavy-duty scissors or tin snips.
  • Wear gloves and goggles to protect your hands and eyes.
  • Sand the cut edges with wet and dry sandpaper. Start sanding with 400 grit and complete with 600 grit for a smooth finish.
  • Practise tin-cutting on an inexpensive tin first to perfect your technique!
  • Customise your pieces with glossy spray paint or engrave them.


Preparing bottle caps

Here are some tips for tools when working with bottle caps:

  • Hole punches are perfect for punching holes in standard size bottle caps, either flattened or unflattened.
  • A split ring tool will save your fingernails when feeding split rings onto the bottle caps, but using it will take time to master.
  • E600 is a super-strong industrial glue. Although it takes 24 hours to dry, it will be totally secure when gluing bottle caps.
  • To flatten a bottle cap, place the cap on a hard, flat surface as you need to use a hammer or rubber mallet to flatten it. Hammer the cap gently on the edges to avoid creating dents or scratches. This can also be done with a Sizzix machine, if you have one.


Design ideas


Magazine ideas

Paper beads have been made since the days of ancient Egypt and are quite simple to make.

  • Cut across the width of a magazine page so that you end up with long triangular strips of paper that are 2.5cm in width at one end and taper down into a point at the other end. Roll up the widest edge around a toothpick (toothpick creates the bead hole) and glue in place. Continue rolling and gluing as you go. Remove the toothpick and allow to thoroughly dry before using.
  • Magazine pages can be used in the same way as other crafting papers. You can use paper-craft techniques to create jewellery pieces using origami, iris folding and tea folding.
  • You can also fold magazines into thin strips and coil up to make pendants.

Button ideas

There are lots of jewellery items you can make inspired by a simple button:

  • Make a ring or brooch by stacking a smaller button on top of a larger button. Secure with wire, add a hook and use as earrings.
  • Glue small 9mm chunky buttons to an ear-post earring to create button-stud earrings.


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