No Dead Ends: Replacing Unavailable Components in Projects and Design Ideas

Design Idea E11T Bracelet and Earrings
by Barbara van Look, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

You've faced this before.

That design is just so incredible, you absolutely have to recreate it. You click on particular items in the materials list and ... this message pops up:

Sorry, that item is no longer available

Well, great. There's another idea down the drain. You'll never be able to make it now.

Wanna bet?

Step One: Figuring Out Why

Professional jewelry maker Jamie Smedley, one of our in-house designers, has faced this countless times over the course of her career and she's come up with a range of strategies that let her get inspiration anywhere--even from designs she can't re-make exactly as they are.

Jamie Smedley Jewelry Artist Bio

Jamie Smedley, Jewelry Production Specialist

The first strategy she has is to look at the design and decide why she likes it. Is it the materials? The colors? The shapes? The finishes?

And she's faced that same hurdle, too, that answer from inside that says: I don't know why I like it! I just like it!

Then it's time to explore! Look at similar pieces by that artist in magazines or in our Gallery of Designs. Do you like other antiqued brass necklaces? Do you like the way it drapes, or if it has a gleaming gunmetal finish? Maybe it's the little sparkling accents. Or the color of the gemstone drops. Is it the shape of the filigree finding--or the fact that it's filigree instead of solid? Explore and compare and see what elements you like from design to design.

Once you look at a family of designs, it's easier to see the common touches. Kind of like looking at that picture from the 20-year family reunion, with four generations all grouped together. Easy to see how everyone's related then, right?

As you start to do this, it can be difficult. It's engaging a different part of your brain from your creative side. You're used to just thinking that necklace is beautiful--now, you get to figure out why you think it's beautiful. And that takes practice.

So give yourself a chance before you decide you ''can't do it.'' Like riding a bicycle, it takes time and practice. And, just like riding a bicycle, once you know how to do it, you'll never forget.

Step Two: Making a Change

Some components in a particular design are simpler to replace than others. Can't find that particular strand of amethyst nuggets? Well, there are always more amethyst nugget beads. Don't have that certain color of cultured freshwater pearls? Replace them with Celestial Crystal® pearls or glass pearls--or gorgeous Crystal Passions® pearls!

Replacing by Type
Replacing a missing item with something from the same subgroup (such as findings) is one of the easiest steps--for example, when using hook ear wires:
  • Make the design high end by replacing silver-plated earwires with sterling silver or gold-plated with gold-filled
  • Meet a price point by replacing silver-plated earwires with stainless steel or gold-plated with brass
  • Create variations on earrings for customers with unpierced ears by using clip-on or magnetic earring findings
Replacing by Shape and Color
Replacing a missing item with something from the same color group, without being the same material, can lead to new options--for example, when replacing one gemstone bead with another:
  • Do you like the shape and color of the beads? Then use beads with the same shape and color in a different material:
    Replace green quartz with emerald, tsavorite or vesuvianite for a high-end design--or meet a price point by replacing emerald beads with green quartz, acrylic, or Celestial Crystal and Czech glass

    ''Sleeping Beauty''
    In this example, what she likes most is the way the pieces create a "fluffy" shape. So she'd replace the Crystal Passions donuts and oval fancy stones with similar shapes made of Celestial Crystal™ or gemstone, and replace the sterling silver-filled wire with Wrapit® wire.

    Design Idea G76D Necklace
  • Is it the color only?
    Then choose any shape or style of item with that color. Remember, many rhodium-finished items look like silver, brass findings often look like gold and red bronze gives the look of copper.

    ''Riverside Riches''
    In this piece, what she likes most is the way the shell discs sound while moving. So she'd replace the silver filigree items with any silver-colored component that offers multiple attachments for the shell drops.

    No Dead Ends: Replacing Unavailable Components in Projects and Design Ideas
Replacing for Effect
The components themselves aren't particularly important--it's the overall look you want. You're creating a particular silhouette (like angels or Christmas trees) and that's your focus.
  • Is it a background or container for multimedia designs?
    Then choose whatever components will contain your resins, clays, glues or other materials.

    ''Ring of Time''
    In this jewelry set, what she likes most is how the square and round drops are containers for the tiny gears and other items she's embedded in resin. So she'd replace those open settings with any other--after all, she just needs it to hold the contents of her design!

    No Dead Ends: Replacing Unavailable Components in Projects and Design Ideas
  • Is it the overall effect?
    Then choose whatever components give you that overall look.

    ''Wings of Faith''
    In these earrings, what she likes the most is the way they end up looking like old-fashioned Christmas tree ornaments. So she'd replace the round glass beads with any other beads of the same size, in whichever colors she liked best. There are plenty of other hand-blown glass round beads which will look just as stylish!

    No Dead Ends: Replacing Unavailable Components in Projects and Design Ideas
Replacing by Duplication
Replacing a missing item by making your own version of it:
  • Use wire jigs to make your own earwires, links and loop components.
  • Use the molding compound to take a mold off an existing component--then use metal clays, Apoxie® Sculpt or polymer clays to make your own versions of it. (Polymer clays can be used to replicate the look of bone, ivory, wood, stone and other materials.)
  • Make sure the components you're replicating aren't copyrighted, however, so component designers get their bills paid, too!

Teaching yourself to analyze the designs you see and discovering why you enjoy them will open up a world of inspiration. The only limits on recreating jewelry you admire and enjoy are the limits you've put on yourself. Whether you replace beads and components by type, shape, size or other techniques, you'll be able to springboard into a whole new level of creativity!

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