How To Buy, Restore and Modernize Grandma's Jewelry

Design Idea 88JB Bracelet
by Doreen, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Old jewelry and old jewelry components can become new jewelry creations--if you follow these tips. Upcycling, restoring and reusing grandma's jewelry bits is a popular and efficient way to make sure family treasures aren't lost forever. Any fan of estate sale shopping will be able to get ideas for what to do with old jewelry and use these tips to turn their second-hand treasures into first-rate style!

Your first investment should be a handheld loupe--your best friend--It's a great practice to have a jeweler's loupe in your pocket or purse for shopping expeditions. In different lighting and environments, the 10 times magnification is worth a million bucks. In the video, Doreen shows how a loupe is used, then explains the different kinds of metal purity markings and where to find those markings on old jewelry.

How To Buy, Restore and Modernize Grandma's Jewelry

Some unusual metal purity markings are:
  1. 900--coin silver (old term, not very common)
  2. GF, or 14/20GF = 14Kt Gold-Filled, 12/20GF = 12Kt Gold-Filled, 10/20GF = 10Kt Gold-Filled
  3. 300--8kt gold
  4. 750--18Kt--18Kt gold
  5. 999--24Kt--24Kt--24Kt gold
  6. Company hallmark--Mostly on antiques and larger manufacturers. This will look like a logo or initials and can be researched online.
If it's not stamped, it still may be precious metal. In the USA precious metal can't be sold as such without a stamped purity designation, however on some old pieces or jewelry components from Europe, the stamp has worn off or simply is not there. When repurposing costume, vintage or broken jewelry, knowing what your metal contents are makes a difference during cleaning.

Like clothing, accessory jewelry styles tend to recycle themselves as well. It's fun and easy to take these "found" treasures and re-fashion them into usable accessories. You can make new things using grandma's old jewelry, since many of the "old" styles are in vogue right now, but with a different twist:
  1. Broken necklace or bracelet found in mom's jewelry box
    Add lapis and turquoise beads to create a stunning "new" necklace
  2. Ear clip to home décor
    Originally a single clip on earring. Add to the top of a metal-finished egg to create an homage to Faberge
  3. Bracelet to hair stick
    Use an old bracelet or necklace component to add color to a dangle from a hair stick

    How To Buy, Restore and Modernize Grandma's Jewelry
  4. Crystal brooch to hair comb
    Cut the back off of the brooch and use epoxy and FireLine® thread to bond it to a comb. It creates an elegant hair accessory, suitable for day, evening or wedding wear.
  5. Buttons to jewelry
    Mother-of-pearl buttons with holes (not shanks) can be used as beading components. Simply remove from clothing then stitch or connect, string, embellish and more.

    How To Buy, Restore and Modernize Grandma's Jewelry
  6. Pin to bolo tie
    Cut back off of the brooch and use epoxy to bond it to a bolo back. String braided bolo cord, polish the pin and finish the tie with coordinated tips. Works for both men's and women's styles!
  7. Brooch to pendant
    Clean the brooch, tighten the pin back and use the brooch converter bail to turn it into a pendant. String with coordinated gemstone, glass or crystal beads.

    How To Buy, Restore and Modernize Grandma's Jewelry How To Buy, Restore and Modernize Grandma's Jewelry
  8. Watch to storage box
    This is more of a craft idea to repurpose jewelry. Cover the lid of a breath mint box with polymer clay, then bond watch parts, stray metal findings or a broken brooch to it. A few more components to top it off, and it makes a pretty gift or collector box.
Final tips for identifying, reusing and repurposing old jewelry and other pieces.
  1. Keep stuff!
    Odds and ends can be a wealth of materials and replacement parts
  2. Shop flexibly!
    Don't get too hung up on what something is "supposed to" be
  3. Look at everything!
    Look carefully to find those rare, exotic or just plain beautiful accessory potentials
The side treasure is developing a fun hobby that'll get you out meeting people, as well as exploring new places. Use a keen, imaginative eye; you'll never know what you'll find!

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