7 Tips for Redesigning Jewelry

Jan 25, 2010

Second Chances

As part of my "get organized" resolution, I've been cleaning my studio (a.k.a. "unfinished basement"). One cardboard box in the corner held my first necklaces. Some were badly made, but others were just no longer me. And some, like the necklace with spiky rubber neon green beads, fell into the "What was I thinking?" category.

Before I wrote the "Take 2" article for the spring issue of Stringing, I would have tucked these beading disasters away forever. But now that I've seen the spectacular redesign results of designers Danielle Fox, Andrew Thornton, Molly Schaller, and Denise Yezbak Moore, I firmly believe that almost every piece of unworn jewelry (except perhaps neon necklaces) deserves a second chance.

If you have jewelry that you never wear or pieces that just won't sell, maybe it's time to give them another look. Here are some tips I've uncovered:

7 Tips for Redesigning Jewelry

1: Be open to possibilities. Just because you start with one idea doesn't mean you need to stick with it. I intended just to restring my bracelet (shown below), but as I worked, I realized that I'd prefer a necklace. (Bracelets make such a racket when you're typing at the computer!) 

2: Ask for feedback. Get opinions from someone you trust. Sometimes it's easier for others to spot problems than it is to see them ourselves.

3: Seek inspiration. Page through copies of Stringing, study reader galleries on the Beading Daily forums, and paw through your bead stash or local bead shop. What catches your eye?

4: Start small. While a necklace might need a total overhaul, often changing just one element, such as a focal or clasp, will be enough to make it work.

5: Take a photo. If you're nervous about taking a piece apart, take a photo of it first. This  will give you a security blanket. You can always reconstruct the original piece if you don't like the new results.

6: Go back to Square One. If you're unhappy with a piece of jewelry, but don't know what to do to improve it, think back to why you were inspired to make the piece in the first place. If it was a color combination that you loved, for instance, make that your springboard for another design.

7: Wear it. Some flaws–a faulty clasp, a too-short necklace–only become apparent with the piece on. Figure out why your piece doesn't fit comfortably, then fix it.

My "Before" Bracelet and "After" Necklace

I enjoyed this redesign process so much that I redid a second piece in addition to the one in Stringing.

I'm sharing it exclusively on Beading Daily.

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After: The redesigned necklace has an edgier, more modern look with gunmetal chain and an enamel clasp.
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Spacer 10x10 pixelsSpacer 10x10 pixelsSpacer 10x10 pixelsSpacer 10x10 pixelsSpacer 10x10 pixelsSpacer 10x10 pixelsBefore: This bracelet was too sweet
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Be sure to check out all five sets of before and after photos in the spring issue of Stringing, along with nearly 100 new necklace, bracelet, and earring designs (including some with great floral ceramic beads!), tips on how to sell your jewelry at outdoor shows, and where to get the latest woodland creature beads and the cutest little raku house beads I've ever seen.

While we wait for our copies of Stringing to arrive, tell us your tales of redesign. Have you ever redesigned a piece? Why or why not?

Share your ideas here on Beading Daily.

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on Jan 25, 2010 8:28 AM

I loved this article - did this recently with a pair of earrings - where can I post picture results?

Cynthia@75 wrote
on Jan 25, 2010 8:30 AM

Michelle, I really like your re-designed necklace - really neat! I have not done too much re-designing, because - who has time! I have beads hoarded away that need to be made into the first design!! (so many beads, so little time). My designs have certainly metamorphised over the years, but, eventhough I've moved on, I kinda like looking back at what was. I've been through lots of "phases", and I'm sure I'll go throught many more. (I have not gone through the neon phase, but I do have a necklace that's made of glass fruit, suitable for the Chicita banana lady!!)

brightcircle wrote
on Jan 25, 2010 9:53 AM

When I scrap a jewelry project, usually it's still in progress, and I save elements of the piece that I like--for example, a section of wired dangles strung with silver beads between the dangle loops. Months or years later, I come back to that section tucked away in a drawer, and see that my new frosted quarts jumbo  bead would go great inside that section curved, on a simple bead chain. Then I'll go and add something to the chain, like silk cord running between the jumprings.

JayelF wrote
on Jan 25, 2010 10:17 AM

I love to repurpose old jewelry.  It's far easier to do with jewelry that holds no emotional baggage for me, e.g. yard sale finds or jewelry given to me by friends.  Repurposing my own creations or elements of my own collection is infinitely harder for me.  I'll get there!  I think it will be easiest with those with damaged, unusable elements.  It's either redesign or let it lie there.

Several years ago, a friend went through her late mother's jewelry box and gave me a whole bunch of vintage costume jewelry to play with.  Some things just needed simple fixes to be rejuvenated (converting clip earrings to pierced).  Others I kept for my "creativity box" to combine with other elements.  The first item I completed was a brooch I made for my friend's younger sister.  I made by combining elements she would recognize from her mother's jewelry box.   She now has a keepsake from her mother that she would actually wear.

My friend herself doesn't wear much jewelry beyond simple earrings.  I'm thinking of making a pendant she gave her mom when she was little the focal point of a  handbag charm for her.

SherryS@23 wrote
on Jan 25, 2010 10:26 AM


The first year I was beading, a lady ask me if I ever took my work apart and started over.  My reply was, Oh no!  Well, after beading now for 4 years, I have redisigned some of my pieces.  I have been ask by some of my customers to redesign some of their old pieces they have had for years.  Recently a friend brought to me two necklaces that had been her grandmothers.  I redesigned both of them.  I must brag and say I think they turned out great!  She wore one to church recently and got great reviews on it.  I did have to add extra stones and some chain to one, but she was happy.

WilmaA wrote
on Jan 25, 2010 11:22 AM

For several yearsI have been remaking old jewelry parts into brooches t.hat I call "ReCreations". Some of the parts are given to me, some I buy at Goodwill or yard sales.  I have a box where I store the pieces until I find a day when I can spread everyting out on my dining room table and start  the process . I first look for a base, usually a large earring that can have a pinback attached . Then comes

the trying of different parts together until a pleasing   match (at least to me) is found.

Then I mount them on a business card and write on the the back what parts were used.

I sell these in the gift shop at my local Senior center.

Wilma R. Anderson

on Jan 25, 2010 12:52 PM

What great comments!  Thanks for sharing your stories!

- Mary, There's a "Reader's Gallery" under the "Gallery" tab on the website to post photos.  I'd love to see your project!

-Cynthia, I think it's good to hang onto at least a few older pieces.  It really does show you how far you've come.  Kind of like a beading scrapbook.

-Brightcircle, I too have things that don't even get to the finished stage that I repurpose.  For example, I have all these cute crystal wrapped-loop dangles that haven't made it to a finished project yet.  I can't bear to cut the wire (seems wasteful), so I hang onto them.

-Sherry and Jayel, I think that's great that you're redesigning pieces out of older ones with sentimental value.  It's so much nicer to be able to wear a special piece than to just take it out of the jewelry box and look at it.

-Wilma, I love your idea of shopping thrift stores.  Sometimes I think it's easier to work with someone else's old pieces than with your own.

Mimzie wrote
on Jan 25, 2010 3:17 PM

Thanks for your article, which just justified to my family (ahem..teenage daughter!!) exactly WHY I always feel so compeled to show off various stages of my designs with her!! LOL! Actually, she has a good sense of style, and the ability convey a differing vision well, as well as a flair with color. She has some experience with beading (from years of hanging out with me and others at various beadstores), so her tips are quite often very valuable! Now, if I could just convince her what a compliment to her it is, that I seek her opinion, she might stop teasing me about it!!

Diana@206 wrote
on Jan 25, 2010 3:56 PM

Hi Michelle,

cool article, I sell my hand made jewelery at my local market and i redesign my items every couple of weeks if they don't sell. In saying that though, redesigning for me is usually taking pieces of and adding newbies, and only keeping some of the original work going.

I love this site, glad i stumbled upon it.

thanks heaps, Diana

P.s I'm new to your site....*waves* hi from Australia.

on Jan 25, 2010 6:20 PM

Mimzie--How lucky you are to have someone around to bounce ideas off.  It is amazing how another set of eyes can make a difference during the design process.

Diana--I think it's really smart to think about redesigns when you sell your work, especially if you keep selling at the same places.  It helps to keep things fresh, plus it's more economical.  I would love to visit Australia again.  On my first trip I brought every Australian bead magazine back with me.  The customs folks thought I was nuts! : )

Patriciakoko wrote
on Jan 25, 2010 6:27 PM

Last winter we joined the local Senior Center for a Christmas Market trip on the Danube ending up with a three-day stay in Prague. I found all the bead shops (didn't get to Jablonex, however).  At one I bought a finished necklace with 3 strands mainly for the beads. I wore it a couple of times and realized it was too "chokery" for me and three strands were too much.  I redesigned to a 2-strand longer  one and love it now.  A few left over beads will find their way into another piece eventually.

JulieD@51 wrote
on Jan 26, 2010 1:01 AM

I'm was stoked to see this article. I inherited all my Gran's jewellery (we are talking serious bead wearer) a few years ago and just before Christmas I finally got the courage to start butchering it.  Not before taking photo's just in case! There is stacks of it.  Being more a chain mailler/ wire girl I'v been left wondering what I had done! From basically no bead stash to almost complete colour range. Some are really interesting, some great coloured and some mmmmm they are seriously dated, like the white acrylic tube flowers, even by themselves.

Thanks for the tips, keep them coming. :-)

Renae@12 wrote
on Jan 26, 2010 8:39 AM

Sometimes I think that I love to redesign pieces more than I like to create from scratch.  Every three-six months I go thru my jewelry stash and take an assessment, whats been worn, what hasnt and why.  Then, if it feels right, I just go ahead and take a piece apart, reorganize the pieces and start again, it can be so refreshing.  I love the opinions of those around me, sometimes by seeing what others pick from your stash and what they arent picking, tells me what needs to be rethought.  

Use the resoureces around you and have fun!!!

JanG@25 wrote
on Jan 26, 2010 12:42 PM

I'll chime in and say, "Great article, Michelle!"  To me, redesigning a piece of jewelry that doesn't make it, either at first or later, is a sign that I'm growing and not getting stagnant.  It's nice to read that you also redesign pieces; it's so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because you're an editor, you're somehow magically gifted in the art of perfection first time, every time.  OK, I suspect this comment will inspire chuckles among the other editors, but you understand what I mean, i hope.  If even the experts change their designs, there's hope for a relative novice in this delightful art and craft.

Thanks for the inspiration!


on Jan 26, 2010 4:29 PM

What lovely comments!  

-Patricia, I love how you said that after your redesign you had beads left for another project.  That was hard for me to learn--I'd love a strand of beads so much that I'd want to cram them all into one necklace.  Not always a good idea!

-Julie, I bet even the "seriously dated" stuff will inspire you at some point.  You never know!

-Renae, I save my "redesign" projects for when I'm not feeling especially creative.  This way, I feel I already have a good start and just need to keep going.

-Jan, I can't speak for the other editors, but I know I definitely have days when I'm not feeling the creative vibe.  I'm better now at holding off on crimping/finishing until I feel more sure of a piece.  When I started, I was all about "make it tonight, wear it tomorrow."  That can lead to a lot of crazy designs!

bethullman wrote
on Jan 26, 2010 8:15 PM

I do this often, with jewelry I make for both resale and my own use, as well as purchashed/inherited items.  Old pieces often need a re-work because of some broken part, or even worn-off finish, and I've come up with some unusual solutions, including converting to or from pins, adding wire wrapped crystals over worn spots and rebending metals into new forms.  For necklaces sometimes the easiest solution is adding a second and/or third strand with complementary beads -- a solution I love because I almost always make those necklaces in such a way each strand can also be worn alone. Lots of flexibility!

Joy@132 wrote
on Jan 26, 2010 9:15 PM

I have thought about that many times.  I have, over the years,  saved single earrings I have lost the mate to.  I'm sure there is someone who has done this and wouldn't mind sharing photos and design instructions.

I love your magazine

Joy H.

Phoenix, Arizona

on Jan 27, 2010 7:01 AM

Beth--I love the solution of simply adding another strand of beads.  Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best!

Joy--One of the early Stringing magazines had a designer who did just that--she used an earring as a pendant for a necklace.  I couldn't find a picture online, but if I remember correctly, it was the kind of earring piece that already had the hole on top.  She just removed the ear wire and used something (probably a jump ring) to attach it to the necklace.  Maybe a reader will have photo of their own version of this idea.

on Jan 27, 2010 2:06 PM

A good proportion of the commissions I take are to make "new from old", customers bring in pieces that they want revamped, or sometimes just one or two beads as a basis for something new.  I really enjoy the challenge - I always take a photo before I start and at every stage, its really interesting to see how ideas develop!

beadidani wrote
on Jan 28, 2010 8:46 AM

Very informative article.

on Jan 28, 2010 10:04 PM

Tangent Treasures -- What a smart business angle!  I bet you learn a lot from the designs you create for your customers.  I think it really stretches your creativity to work with materials that you did not choose.

Andy27 wrote
on Feb 19, 2010 6:07 PM

You've inspired me to saunter over to the over fifties village to stick up a notice to ask for any unwanted bead necklaces to add to my small collection.  Hope there will be some goodies that someone is happy give away.  I'll let you know!

segarcia wrote
on Nov 12, 2010 6:54 AM

great article! I find myself taking apart and doing a "remake". This neclace really does have an edgier look. both pieces are great really.  We all have different moods and will dress accordingly, so why not do it with our jewelry?

taya_etc wrote
on Feb 23, 2011 10:42 PM

Recycling and coming up with something new that can be useful is really worth it. You get to save as well as explore more options based on how you want things. Also check out jewelry designs here http://www.taya-etc.com.

linda@891 wrote
on Mar 29, 2011 3:02 PM

Enjoyed this blog. I also did a blog on redesigning jewelry - called "Redoing the Family Jewels" it is at Lindasudimack.blogspot.com and it is the November entry - several blogs back. I just realized this is from last year - hope you get this...Linda

Eileen1224 wrote
on Apr 18, 2011 4:14 PM

Great suggestions! Thank you. I'm taking afresh look at all the stuff I never wear for whatever reason.

yayuk wrote
on Apr 24, 2011 10:27 PM

i reallly love with this article and give me a lot of inspiration to design the jewelry

yayuk wrote
on Apr 24, 2011 10:28 PM

I like this article couse I have a lot of jewelry need to redesigning