Another Necklace Making Makeover: Tiny Shell Beads Transform a Cabochon

This year, I'm working on some necklace making makeovers using a stash of vintage and antique jewelry that was given to me by a very dear friend from Los Angeles. Many of my original beaded jewelry designs are inspired by vintage and antique jewelry designs, so I'm really having a great time coming up with new uses for some of these beautiful old pieces of jewelry.

My mother had several beaded necklaces made from strands of tiny drilled shells, and I love the look of natural shells when they're used in bead-weaving and beading projects.

As soon as I saw this three-strand shell necklace in the stash of vintage jewelry from my friend, I knew I wanted to repurpose those shells and use them for something else. I had a wonderful clay sea goddess cabochon in my stash that matched the green shells perfectly, so I decided to go with a green, cream, and rose color palette for the piece, reflecting the colors of the tiny shells. I rounded out my materials with a few strands of matching freshwater pearls and a handful of Twin beads in a matching shade of green.

I couldn't get the whole piece finished over the long weekend, but my plans for this necklace making makeover include finishing the off-center fringe along the bottom, some more embellishments along the brick stitch edge, and a fluffy, embellished spiral rope using more of the shells and freshwater pearls! Once the necklace is done, I want to make a pair of earrings with a pair of matching cabochons from the same artist.

I'm really having a great time looking through all this old vintage jewelry and tearing it apart for new necklace making projects. It's turning into a great way to get me unstuck when I feel like I don't want to bead. Even better, it's helping me to use up a tiny bit of my humongous bead stash!

Are you looking for some new ways to make jewelry? If you love fresh ideas and combining jewelry-making techniques in your necklace making projects, you won't want to miss Beads, Baubles, and Jewels Series 1700 on DVD! There are thirteen great episodes on four discs that show you how to combine your favorite jewelry-making techniques like bead-weaving, wire wrapping, resin, mixed media techniques, and polymer clay for truly unique art jewelry. Get your copy of Baubles, and Jewels Series 1700 on DVD and challenge yourself to add some new dimensions to your necklace making projects.

How do you mix up your beading projects when you feel like you're stuck in a rut? Do you learn a new technique? Do you tear apart an old piece of jewelry and use the parts for something new? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share your tips and suggestions with us!

Bead Happy,


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Jennifer VanBenschoten

About Jennifer VanBenschoten

Born in New Jersey in 1974, I escaped to the Adirondacks for the first time in 1995, making it my permanent home in 2000.  I have been interested in beads, buttons and making jewelry as long as I can remember.  It's probably my mother's fault - she was a fiber artist and crochet historian, and whenever she ordered supplies from one mail order source, she would order a huge bag of assorted buttons and beads for me and my sister!    

14 thoughts on “Another Necklace Making Makeover: Tiny Shell Beads Transform a Cabochon

  1. I haven’t recycled a necklace, but some time ago I used to buy bags of mixed beads on the bargain table. One day I found some matte plastic beads which I painted green and glazed with clear nail polish. They came out beautifully, very jade-like, and I made THOSE into a new necklace!

  2. good morning jennifer-I, too, tear apart old jewelry and reuse almost every part available to make totally different pieces. I started doing this because of the savings I was able to gain re purposing clasps and other findings but then found that not only were they of better quality but the metal color I needed to blend in with the stone settings I used from the piece of course matched perfectly., so it was a win ,win, all around! Also I have found many times in collecting jewelry from yard sales I have, many times, found valuable gold, silver and precious stones, occasionally diamonds. So, yes, I will continue to re purpose necklaces and such. Kathy

  3. I love going to Auctions and Estate sales and finding Vintage jewelry! I really enjoy bringing it back to it’s original state. Sometime I will take it apart and repurpose the beads 🙂

  4. I have re-purposed several pieces – some from old jewelry that I had, some from yard sales or thrift shops etc. A friend just gave me a bag of jewelry (mostly costume) that she found among her daughter’s things after her daughter passed away. I plan to go through them and make my friend a necklace or bracelet from some of the beads. I find it very rewarding to take something old and perhaps broken and re-make it into a new piece while retaining some of it original character. I am always on the lookout for a new “old” treasure.


    Ayer Baubles

  5. When I’m stuck in a rut I head one of two directions, either I gather up everything to make something gorgeous from Beadwork – no thought, all technique, or I go to my notebook, and make something original that’s been simmering but I haven’t taken the energy to make. Depends which rut I’m stuck in – low energy from too much family or boredom from too much work.

  6. I recycle my own projects when they go out of style or I get tired of them & use the beads in another project- sometimes I find things at a thrift store or garage sale & use the beads for a new piece.

  7. Hi Jennifer,
    Ask your friend if those shells are from Hawaii. It is hard to tell the size from the picture, but if they are very small, they may be Niihau Shells, and have the potential to be very valuable. They only come from that island, and are hand picked from the beach. Of course as the years go by, they become more and more rare. Your design is lovely. I just wanted you to be aware that they may be more than “just shells.” 🙂

  8. I remake from a stash of older jewelry that I accumulated over several years of buying junk jewelry bags at thrift stores and yard sales etc., along with a huge bunch of jewelry given to me by my mother “to do something with”. I have to be very careful though when I get into a re-purposing mood…some pieces of jewelry are worth more to sell on e-bay or other venues as vintage or antique, than they are to redo. It would be a shame to take apart a vintage Haskell necklace and use it for other ideas when I can sell it for maybe upwards of $100.00 and use that money to buy more beads or supplies. B’sue has a wonderful tutorial on her website about when to re-purpose and when to not. It is worth your while to go and read it, and while you are there, peruse her other patterns and tutorials!, and she carries a lot of great brass items in several different platings also. I happen to be a fan of hers. She will answer any and all questions in a simple email, and she is very personable! I have gone through her gallery many times when I am just out of the brain power to grab another idea, and pretty soon…bang…there it is! I guess I could say I use the jewelry and the online galleries for inspiration, but then I have 4 huge totes full of beading and jewelry magazines (clear back to the first issue of Bead and Button, and other first issues also) that I reread all the time. Someday I will get my library onto discs and have more storage for important things like beads and more beads!

  9. I have a dream! Someday, someone will figure out different ways to use the fabulous clip earrings of yesteryear in today’s designs. I have beautiful old crystal earrings that sparkle like the sun but they are too heavy and uncomfortable to wear. There are the wonderful broaches of the same period which lack the safety fastener on the back with allows one to wear them with pride (even on a V-neck T-shirt) without endangering your body and protecting from stab wounds.
    Between my shaky hands and vision problems, using a cold connection solution or a torch (even a butane one) would be dangerous to me and the piece I am working on. How about it vintage users? What are your solutions for using this type of jewelry usually available in every garage or estate sale, flea market and consignment store within 20 miles of where you live. 🙂
    – Jo Ann