So many of you had so many great tips and ideas for repurposing and spring cleaning your jewelry! It was a tough call, but we finally selected this tip from reader Shelly Gillman as the winner:
"My mother-in-law gave me a long, vintage, crystal necklace,
probably from the 1920's, that belonged to her mother-in-law. She'd
never worn it herself, because it was a much larger piece than she'd
ever be comfortable wearing. I decided to take it apart and make
something out of it my mother-in-law would enjoy. I washed the beads
first, by the way, by soaking them in denture cleaner. While I was at
it, I made a piece for my sister-in-law and a piece for myself. I used
the larger vintage beads as focal points in the three necklaces, adding
smaller, new Swarovski and sterling wirework to each. While the
materials were similar in all three necklaces, the finished necklaces
were very different from each other, made with the recipients' tastes in
One year, my friend was in charge of our bead group's annual
retreat challenge. She bought a thrift store necklace that was mostly
made of the same large beads in a single strand. She cut it apart and
gave one to each beader who had registered for the retreat, with the
challenge of making something new out of the bead. It was fun to see a
nothing-special necklace transform into many gorgeous (but different!)
Our bead group is now talking about a new type of challenge where we'll exchange abandoned UFO's."
We went through the rest of the comments and chose ten of our favorites to share with you here:
- DragonflyDreamweaver wrote: "When I am working with vintage beads, the first thing I do is take the
old item apart and set all the beads out in piles. This removes the old
look and allows the creativity to begin in a new fashion. Sometimes I
take apart several similar colour pieces so that I can intermingle the
beads and see what will work together. This usually gets things going
but if I need further inspiration I browse the hundreds of pictures on
the internet. A little of this one, a little of that one and before I
know it, I have ideas for a whole new wardrobe of spring jewels."
- Nedale67 wrote: "I use leftover bead woven components as focal or accent touches on my
bead embroidery. If I have a pretty beaded flower that never made it
into a bracelet or a necklace, it's great fun to stitch it down to my
foundation and bead embroider around it! AND, you don't have to cut
things up to use them!"
- chezsey wrote: "We all have those UFOs (unfinished projects) and sometimes they are
projects that just don't work out but are made out of amazing beads and
really beautiful color palettes. I disassemble those projects and bag
up the beads in small clear baggies. Then I throw those projects in a
fishbowl and when I find a lovely button, pendant or other element at a
garage sale I dig through the fishbowl to find an already assembled
colorway that works well with the element. This saves time trying to put
all those tiny beads back into the right tube or string and it saves
money because I already have most everything I need to design a project.
It also helps with cleaning up the mess because a large pet store
fishbowl has a flat side that fits snug against the wall and keeps the
projects contained neatly while enabling me to see all the pretty beads."
- artprncss wrote: "I like to have a Krylon 18K Gold Leaf Pen handy and use it for color
repair on found vintage pieces so I can make them into something new. I also use Elmers Acrylic painters pens in Silver, Gold, and
other colors for repair or just to color my filigree or vintage pieces
to make a new project and I always coat the paint with Vintaj Glaze for
Metal Sealer and Patina Extender. I sand and ruff up some pieces and paint them with nail polish and then seal them also."
- dswee3 wrote: "One of my favorite finds is often overlooked and yet so easy to convert
into something handy. I am talking about old fashioned clip on earrings.
They make an awesome clasp, connector, a great way to lengthen a piece,
and for an "add a pendant" they are super slick, super easy! Sometimes
they can be used just as they are, attached to your finished piece with
bead stitching or jump rings, sometimes taken apart and reassembled
more directly into a design. Vintage rhinestone pieces are some of my
favorites and the added bonus is you dont have to find these in pairs
for them to be uber helpful!"
- TashaYar wrote: "Wash those beads!. Don't be tempted to use old beads that have been
lying around for years after being worn for years. The accumulated dirt
and oils can actually harm your new beads, especially those with exotic
finished. Mix up a little liquid hand soap and barely warm water and
swish them around a bit. Rinse with cool water and spread out on a towel
to air dry. You will see the true color and sheen as well as protecting
the finish of the new project. If the beads peel or the color washes
off, you are better to know now than after you spend hours creating a
- Kellita wrote: "Since the subject is spring cleaning--I buy a lot of old beads and
necklaces at garage sales, and when I get them home they get a bath. I
unstring and soak glass and plastic beads in warm water with a little
dish detergent. Let them soak for a bit then agitate with your fingers.
Rinse in a strainer and dry on paper towels. Use a white bowl so you can
see how much crud you are getting rid of. The first time I did
this I was really surprised at just how dirty beads can get. After their
bath the beads are sparkly and ready for their new incarnation. Of
course Do Not do this to anything you think may be harmed by the soaking
- GinnySycruo wrote: "There are almost always collections of beads or "orphan" beads left over
after putting together necklace, bracelet or earring projects. I
combine all of the leftovers in a small, clear plastic container and
add more of the same/similar colors as I clean up new projects.
Eventually there are enough beads in the containers to create new
projects. No waste, and quick and easy to clean up after each project!
An added bonus is there is always a cache in which I can find beads that
I can use to create an extra pair of earrings, do a repair, or create
other jewelry if it is needed in the future."
- Rhonda Chase Design wrote: "I love using vintage jewelry elements, but I'm also very aware that
sometimes the older, unregulated materials contain less-than-healthful
substances. As such, I design my jewelry with this in mind. I keep the
vintage beads and metal parts from coming in direct contact with the
skin by using new settings for old beads and crystal, letting vintage
chain dangle from earrings (away from skin), etc. When skin contact
can't be avoided, I use sealers and epoxies to contain any leaching.
This will also prevent skin discoloration."
- momtj2013 wrote: "My favorite way to repurpose or upcycle any odd bit is embedding them
in resin either as a focal point or background. My favorite resin pieces
are mini collages with variety of layers. This is an excellent use of
broken charms, lonely beads and even old electronics. Short bits of
"waste" wire can be incorporated. A few small bends or a twist and
suddenly the small over used, usually in my case abused, bit of wire
becomes a central part of a resin collage. Bead woven test pieces,
failed wraps anything can be effectively used in resin collages."
Thank you so much to everyone who left a comment and participated in our Spring Cleaning For Your Jewelry Contest! Check out the original blog and read all of the great ideas and tips from readers!