Steampunk jewelry takes its cues from the Victorian era, and speculates on how our world would be different if steam power had become the driving force behind our culture. Gears and watch hands are used to decorate larger pieces. Old-fashioned keys are also very popular, as are bits of antique cast-offs, such as pill cases, thread cutters and tiny knives.
Brass: One of the most common materials used in Steampunk styles is brass, the more patinated and ornate the better. "Natural brass is very malleable and can be easily manipulated into other shapes for making creative settings," says Jess Italia-Lincoln of Vintaj Natural Brass Co.
Found Objects: An excellent way to blend old styles into new jewelry designs is to use found objects such as old components and weathered hardware as well as reproductions of old objects. Watch cases and clock gears and cogs, old keys, and unusual brass bits add authentic vintage details to new designs. "I think that the general trend toward found objects is partly steampunk, but also is fed by the interest in the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle," says Cynthia Deis of Ornamentea, which carries ornaments that fit the theme. "The layering of recognized and decorative imagery appeals to the eye's desire for the familiar. It seems new even though it is composed of partly familiar elements. Watch parts and bits of hardware, repurposed with a warm brass sheen, are both familiar and moderne." Vintage-styled chains complement the mixed metallic found objects and brass in steampunk designs. Blending dark pewter, black, gunmetal, brass and copper chains together can enhance a found-treasure, steampunk look.
Gemstones: Steampunk jewelry isn't just about brass and metal. Gemstone beads and pearls, in particular, can blend with other antique elements for a great aged look or contrast with the worn metals. Earthy stones such as black jet, labradorite, pyrite, tiger iron, lava stone, dark carnelian, and smoky quartz all have subtle sparkle, greasy surfaces, and metallic sheens.
Source: Adapted from 'To Begin Your Steampunk Treasure Hunt...', Beadwork, Melanie Brooks Lukacs, Interweave, October-November 2008.