Ideas for Making a Keepsake Necklace

Apr 24, 2012

Spring in my part of upstate New York means warmer days, open windows, laundry drying in the sunshine, working in the gardens, and lots and lots of outdoor activities. It also brings graduations, weddings, proms, and other special events. And of course, as a jewelry maker, my first thought for marking these special occasions is making a keepsake necklace to preserve all the wonderful memories of the day.

Buttons taken from old clothing make great keepsake necklaces, like the Beauty in Buttons necklace by Nancy Chase.
Making a keepsake necklace means that you should add a little extra something to your necklace design to let the recipient or the wearer know that you were thinking about them. But you don't need a special occasion to make a keepsake necklace. Sometimes, "just because" is reason enough!

What makes it a keepsake necklace? Making any necklace into a keepsake necklace just requires a little extra something personal to your necklace design. If you're not sure where to get started, here are five ideas for making any necklace into a keepsake necklace:

Birthstones. Using the birthstone or favorite gemstone of the recipient gives the necklace a personal touch and adds a little bit of meaning. Even if you don't want to use the genuine gemstone bead in your keepsake necklace, you can always find a suitable color of crystal bead to fill in for it.

Buttons. If you want a unique clasp for your keepsake necklace making project, snip a button off of an old sweater, pair of jeans or jacket that has special meaning for you or the recipient of your keepsake necklace. Just make a simple loop of beads to slip over the button! Shank buttons also make great focal points for keepsake necklaces when attached with a simple wire-wrapped loop. Buttons with two or four holes can be strung on leather, cord, or ribbon to make gorgeous keepsake necklaces, too.

Kristal Wick's Time and Tide necklace is a perfect way to create a keepsake necklace using charms, beads. fabric, and ribbons!
Ribbons and trim. If you love using ribbons, silk, fabrics and fibers in your necklace making projects, you can add another unique touch to your keepsake necklace by using a strip of ribbon or fabric from a cherished (but worn out) piece of clothing. A friend of mine took some of her oldest son's old t-shirts, washed them, and cut them into colorful strips to add to her jewelry making projects.

Pictures and photographs. Now that I've learned some resin jewelry making techniques, I've found a great way to add pictures and copies of treasured family photographs to my special keepsake necklace making projects. Baby pictures and family photographs in particular make nice additions to keepsake jewelry. (Just make sure that you copy the photograph you want to use and use the copy instead of the original.)

Recycled or upcycled jewelry. A friend of mine once gave me half a dozen strands of pearls that belonged to her grandmother and her great aunt. My job was to turn them into keepsake necklaces for her and her daughters so that they could share that family connection. Take a look through your grandmother's jewelry box and see if you can find some beads, bracelets, earrings or brooches that can be used in a piece of new keepsake jewelry.

If you're planning on giving your keepsake necklace as a gift, think about how you want to present it, too. A beautiful handmade box, silky pouch or other special packaging will add another warm and wonderful touch to your finished necklace!

Using some of these materials for necklace making might pose a challenge, if you've never worked with them before. But never fear - jewelry designers Lorelei Eurto and Erin Siegel have created a fabulous reference for using all sorts of jewelry-making components. Bohemian-Inspired Jewelry has fifty designs using leather, ribbon, and cord, and all the step-by-step instructions you need to make beautiful keepsake jewelry with your own special items. And if you want to get started right away, you can download this title as an eBook! No cost for shipping, and virtually no waiting. (Because who wants to wait when you could be beading?) Download your copy of Bohemian-Inspired Jewelry and make a special keepsake necklace for someone you love!

Have you ever made or given a special keepsake necklace? What did you use to make it? Why was it special? Leave a comment and share your story here on the Beading Daily blog! Or better yet, take a photo of your special keepsake necklace creation and post it in our Reader Photo Gallery!

Bead Happy,


Featured Products

Beauty in Buttons

Availability: In Stock
Price: $4.00


This design is as cute as a buttonand you will be, too, when you wear it!


Time And Tide

Availability: In Stock
Price: $4.00


Wear this treasure chest of imagination, knotted ribbon, and wireworked charms and beads as a bracelet or a necklace


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bylynette wrote
on Apr 25, 2012 11:43 AM

My memory necklaces use wire, epoxy, jump rings - whatever works! When combining customers' heirlooms into a piece, I'm pretty careful not to destroy the original piece, but try to use the details of an element. If there are cutouts, they are great to slip wire through. When I'm using found junk jewelry, I'm more fearless about altering pieces. Sometimes drilling holes is necessary, sometimes 2-part epoxy resin is helpful. Basic wire techniques like wrapped loops ensure dangles won't fall off or pull apart.  Don't be afraid to combine metal colors, especially in a collection of heirloom or keepsake pieces. A unifying color element can help visually bring disparate "memories" together to make a piece work.

mdrgault wrote
on Apr 25, 2012 3:21 PM

I visited Ireland last year, and was able to buy a couple of beaded bracelets made of Connemara Marble.  I re-fashioned them into some chain-maille bracelets, and was able to give all the ladies on my list a 'little bit of Ireland'.  I was even able to do a pair of earrings with each bracelet.    The response was over whelming.  They all loved them, and felt connected with a place we came from,but that most had never seen.

mbsheisey wrote
on Apr 29, 2012 8:13 AM

Jennifer - I love this idea so much!  I would really love to see those pearl necklaces you made with the grandmother's and great aunt's necklaces!