Upcycle and Recycle: Cool Ways to Create Handmade Jewelry from Found Objects

Upcycle and Recycle: Cool Ways to Create Handmade Jewelry from Found Objects


Why buy new when recycled materials offer endless possibilities for handmade jewelry crafting? From vintage buttons to plastic spoons, nearly any discarded item transforms into wearable art with some creativity.

This guide explores fresh ideas for turning found objects and repurposed materials into one-of-a-kind upcycled jewelry designs. We’ll cover ingenious techniques for reimagining common household items, hardware scraps, and plastic, paper, or metal trash as pendants, beads, charms, and more. Give new life to old things by upcycling everyday junk into handmade jewelry treasures!

Upcycling Plastic Finds Into Jewelry

Flexible, colorful plastic lends itself perfectly to DIY statement pieces when salvaged creatively.

Melted Plastic Bead Necklace

Cut plastic straws or lids into tiny pieces, thread onto skewer, then hold over flame to melt and fuse into irregular beads for boho necklaces.

Soda Tab Chain Maille Jewelry

Weave and connect pulled and hammered soda can tabs into armor-like chain maille bracelets, chokers, or panels.

Toolkit Plastic Upcycled Jewelry

Washers, spacers, and hardware bits from damaged toolkits become industrial-chic cuffs or necklaces with added paint and adhesives.

Upcycled Plastic Flower Jewelry

Glue salvaged plastic flowers from old flip flops or hair clips onto barrettes, headbands, and necklace pendants. Funky flair from trash.

Unexpected Paper and Cardstock Jewelry Ideas

With just paper, glue, and creative folding or layering, stunning wearable art emerges from recyclables once destined for the bin.

Book Page Necklaces

Adhere layered shredded book page strips or cutout words between glass cabochons using decoupage for literarily inspired pendants.

Gift Wrap Scraps Earrings

Punch shapes from the front of castoff gift wrapping then glue stud backs for cheeky upcycled earrings with leftover wrap.

Paper Bead Jewelry

Tightly roll strips of decorative paper then glue solid. String these custom beads for eco bohemian jewelry.

Magazine Photo Frame Pendants

Cut out meaningful pictures or words from old magazines to frame in resin, sequins, or a paper doily for eclectic sentimental necklaces.

Unexpected Metal Materials Transformed

From tinfoil to soda tabs, metal finds gain new potential when cut, linked, wrapped, or refinished into jewelry.

Embossed Tin Foil Jewelry

Press textured items like lace or leaves into aluminum foil to emboss, then cut into geometric statement pendants, cuffs, or hair accessories.

Hammered Coin Jewelry

Hammer vintage coinage with inspirational words or designs for pendants, or solder coins together into organic shapes full of patina.

Can Tab Chain Maille Jewelry

Upcycle printed or colored aluminum soda and beer tabs into necklaces and cuffs by weaving them into chain maille patterns. Industrial chic from recycling.

Vintage Key Jewelry

Transform old unique keys into pendants, charms, brooches, or dangles. For extra shine, dip or plate in precious metals using DIY kits. Value the past.

Unexpected Glass and Ceramic Crafts

Salvage broken plates, cups, and window shards for stunning mosaic jewelry full of collaged texture and color.

Broken China Jewelry

Apply strong adhesive to back painted porcelain and ceramic shards from dishes or figurines, then add bails to create mosaic pendants from trash.

Smashed Glass Jewelry

Fuse together irreparable stained glass salvage under tiles or bottle bottoms to create jewelry pendants with dimensional brilliance. Add hardware findings.

Ceramic Tile Pendants

Decorate cracked tile pieces with paint, nail polish, or enamel then coat with clear sealant for waterproof ornamental pendants perfect for lanyards and bags.

Old Plate Wind Chimes

Drill holes into painted porcelain shards from broken thrift store plates and Accent with bells to DIY musical wind chimes displaying upcycled art.

Unexpected Wood and Natural Materials Crafts

Nature offers free found object jewelry supplies from beach walks like shells, pebbles, and driftwood ready for upcycling.

Shell Chip Jewelry

Chip salvaged shells into organic shaped flakes, then string, glue, or wire wrap them into beachy pendants, earrings, and hair adornments. Natural eco-chic.

Driftwood Jewelry

Gather weathered driftwood, then drill or saw into interesting shapes suitable for necklaces, bracelets, rings, or earrings to wear natural artwork.

Rock and Pebble Jewelry

Wire wrapping interesting pebbles or drilling then beading beach stones elevates natural elements into earthy jewelry. Mix with vintage beads for contrast.

Twig and Branch Jewelry

Wire wrapping nearly any fallen twigs, sticks, or pruned branches creates rustic dimensional pendants and charms infused with nature’s creativity.

Unexpected Hardware Store Finds

Even humble washers, bobby pins, and hardware bits gain new glamorous life when upcycled fromtrash to treasure by clever jewelers.

Washer Statement Rings

Stack an array of different sized washers then adhere to a ring blank. Add nail polish or enamel accents for an industrial adjustable statement.

Refurbished Hardware Jewelry

Hammer or dip plating gives new life to salvaged hardware like chains, fasteners, springs, and clasps for mixed media mechanical jewelry.

Bobby Pin and Paperclip Jewelry

Simple wire wrapping transforms bobby pins, unfolded paperclips, and bread ties into cute stud earrings, charm bracelets, and delicate necklaces.

Hex Nut Jewelry

Decorate salvaged nuts and bolts with paint or nail polish, then wire wrap or solder to components to add an edgy accent to any jewelry design.

Unexpected Button and Bead Crafts

Secondhand buttons, broken bead strands, and incomplete vintage jewelry become whimsical upcycled creations.

Vintage Button Jewelry

Hot glue assorted retro buttons to basic jewelry bases like wood bangles, headbands, and barrettes to create charming adornments from castoffs.

Broken Bead Necklace

Reassemble and wire wrap interesting sections of broken bead strands or necklaces into a mismatched upcycled boho bib necklace. Imperfections make better stories.

Leftover Bead Soup Jewelry

Combine leftover beads from projects into striking mosaic-like multistrand statement necklaces and bracelets to use the dregs and scraps. Chaotic color rocks.

Damaged Jewelry Breakdown

Salvage still usable gems, chains, and findings from irreparable broken or outdated jewelry sourced secondhand to build into new repurposed designs.


With a mind open to possibility, discarded or damaged items offer unlimited potential for handcrafting jewelry full of personality and recycled appeal. Before reflexively trashing, pause to consider potential for upcycling anything from plastic bottles to rusted coins into wearable art treasures that make a statement. Give modern waste new purpose while keeping it out of landfills. Upcycling elevates trash to heirlooms carrying memories and imagination.

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