What’s Your Steampunk Style?

Mar 15, 2010
Leslie Rogalski Spacer 5x5 pixels Beads, baubles and steampunk jewelry
By now most of you have at least heard the term “steampunk.” Coined in the 1980’s, steampunk refers to a genre of fantasy and science fiction featuring steam-powered machinery and Victorian-style decorative arts, circa nineteenth century. It’s a style that has an industrial edginess yet is romantic, which endears itself to many of us.

Vintage or steampunk?
Think H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker, and Jules Verne. Think of movies such as Wild, Wild West, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and The Time Machine. And if you picture the details of the stuff in those films, the buttons and keys, the gears and cogs, the use of metal as a decorative element—and a highly romantic spirit—you have some idea of what will add steampunk-style to your designs.

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Found Objects by Katie Hacker has more of a twentieth century vintage style in its pieces.

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Unlocked Romance by Danielle Fox has the look of steampunk because of the lock and chains but also appears vintage in its delicate design.
Which style does it embody to you?

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Dear Diary by Michelle Mach uses old keys and antiqued chain, giving it a steampunk story.

How to capture steampunk
One of the differences between steampunk- and vintage-style is the more mechanical aspect of steampunk elements, using pieces which once functioned rather than which were purely decorative. The exception would be fantasy charms and references, especially winged creatures such as angels and birds, which are characteristic of the Victorian times in general.

Through Time and Space

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The necklace Through Time and Space by Melanie Brooks Lukacs is a time-traveler’s collection of souvenirs from a journey through a steampunk universe. Her combination of materials captures the essence of this style. Try giving your own work this look with some of these other objects popularly considered to evoke a steampunk era:
  • Civil War-era military trim
  • Military buttons and buckles
  • Leather straps
  • Insignia, such as medals of honor
  • Nautical symbols of the time period
  • Fantasy charms, especially winged creatures: birds, angels, and fairies
  • Old interesting keys and locks
  • Watch parts and watch faces
  • Gears, wheels, and cogs
  • Fancy hinges, hardware, and mechanical bits circa 1900s
  • Typewriter keys or printing press-type pieces
  • Old monocle and eyeglasses lenses
  • Chain with links, especially brass, steel, and gold colored
  • Scientific ephemera: pieces of machinery, lab gizmos, glass vials, etc.

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Spacer 10x10 pixels Watch the style take shape in a preview video
In the Bead, Baubles, and Jewels Series 1100 DVD, designer and artist Melanie Brooks Lukacs talks about how she brings steampunk-style to her ceramic beads and finished jewelry.

Watch the clip from the DVD now!

Beads, Baubles, and Jewels: Series 1100
is sure to inspire you to steam ahead in your designs.

What episode will you want to watch first in Series 1100? Does the steampunk-style get your creative ideas in motion? Share here on Beading Daily.

PS: Come visit me and your favorite authors and designers this weekend at Bead Fest Santa Fe, March 19-21 at the Santa Fe Convention Center and La Fonda Hotel on the Plaza. You can still sign up for classes as well as shop, shop, shop, watch free demos and enter to win door prizes. Be sure to bid on the Bead Star winning pieces, generously donated by the artists, to raise money for the American Heart Association.

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JeanY3 wrote
on Mar 15, 2010 3:12 PM

Melanie did a fantastic job showing how to rock it out with steam punk jewelry. Her poised demeanor added charm and clarity, helping the viewer understand what steam punk is, if he or she has never seen it before!

It is a great style of jewelry and I particularly liked the fact that she showed how to make a simple piece the viewer could copy, and also showed some more elaborable, exotic variations. You could really see what the appeal to this style is when you see Melanie demonstating her great love for steam punk. She is TOPS! Ilove her stuff!!!

Peruzi wrote
on Mar 15, 2010 6:08 PM

Great stuff.  I'm v into the whole steampunk thing too.  How about a gallery section for steampunk inspired pieces?

on Mar 15, 2010 6:40 PM

Agreed--Melanie is the queen of steampunk!

I'd highly recommend using keys in your jewelry designs.  When I wear that necklace pictured, everyone wants to touch those keys!  (They also want to know what they unlock.  I'm still trying to think of a witty response for that!)

VickiC@29 wrote
on Mar 15, 2010 6:46 PM

this was excellent.  we do not get this show here (Australia) unfortunately.  exploring web site now.

Patriciakoko wrote
on Mar 15, 2010 10:40 PM

Okay, so I am a grouchy old person...but I DON'T LIKE STEAMPUNK or any sort of junk in jewelry...I still like beauty and classic lines. Maybe I'm a minority but a happy one at that.

Sally322 wrote
on Mar 16, 2010 6:06 AM

Can't wait to go component  "shopping" in my dad's garage (circa 1950!)

harley587 wrote
on Mar 17, 2010 11:32 AM

Thank you so much for this wonderful article.  I have always had a difficult time describing my "Steampunk" jewelry to others without having an actual item in hand.  I love making and selling my Steampunk jewelry and can spend all day at a Flea Market or in grandma’s attic finding wonderful pieces and scraps of ribbon, etc, to make my jewelry with.  It is like a big treasure hunt with a beautiful prize at the end!  Tracy, www.royaldragonflyjewelry.com

on Jul 12, 2010 12:32 AM

Very nice beads, i like the whole idea but....yes there is a but....steampunk is a about 80% salvaged parts, most artists pride themselves on being able to re-use the salvaged parts they aquire and incorporate them into a piece of jewelry.

This genre has been around since the 80's, and has slowly transformed for most people into a way of life, if i search on google and find a keyboard made into the style of steampunk with only using brass copper and old typewriter keys ( jake von slatt)

And if you keep searching, either it be for jewelry or ANY fashion accessory or day to day life tool, you see one very consistant thing come back again and again, brass.

Brass adds to the industrial effect of steampunk, hence the cogs being made of brass, there are some really good steampunk jewelry artists out there, and yes beads can be used in the type of jewelry, but usually something like crystals or metalic beads.

Also what i find back in this type of jewelry is that the centerpiece of a piece of steampunk is always something very spectacular, and the rest around that piece is just eye candy, with this video i just get the idea, that only the eye candy is being used, and no centerpiece has been added.


splitziebaby wrote
on Aug 25, 2010 7:19 AM

I have a question for all the steampunkers out there who use glaze or resin in their work. I am making a pendant for a friend that consists of a Brass bezel, a silver finish cross, some paper backing and seed beads around the edges. A pretty and simple design. Now I hate using resin, the smell sends me into the throws of a major migrain. So I have been using Dimond Glaze or Triple Thick Glaze but every time I use them, they react with the metal turning the normally crystal clear glaze, blue. How do I stop this from happening? It is so frustrating, and I can't figure out a way to coat the metal before to prevent it. Or is there a different glaze out there that I should consider using instead?

Thank you!

csee wrote
on Mar 21, 2011 7:53 AM

I have just discovered steampunk!!!

It's brilliant, I love sci-fi and clocks, gears etc.  I can't wait to get crafting.