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Old costume jewelry becomes hip and inexpensive do-it-yourself project

We asked the jewelry masters at Charm Boutique in St. Louis (www.charm-boutique.com), to host a “Cheap Tricks” event.

To start, we had our panel of bargain-loving readers bring random pieces from their jewelry box and a little creativity. We worked with broken and out-of-style items, as well as earrings missing their mates.

We used jewelry pliers, wire cutters and a small amount of new material provided by Charm Boutique, but all of the new materials could easily have been scavenged from dismantling other jewelry pieces, and purchasing cheap equivalents to the tools (check your local craft store).

The results worked out so nicely that Charm Boutique decided to begin hosting do-it-yourself jewelry redesign classes on a regular basis.

ALLISON BABKA, 32

Jewelry box: Allison brought a collection of colorful, cheap brooches in the shapes of flowers and butterflies that she usually wears in her hair. She phased them out of her wardrobe but wasn’t sure how to revamp them.

Cheap trick: Katie Miller of Scarlett Garnet (scarlett garnet.com) suggested that they use one of the brooches as a bracelet. Allison picked out her favorite, and they cut the pin off the back and filed down the metal. Some of the stones were loose, so Katie tightened the metal fittings with pliers. Then Katie attached a silver-plate link chain to the brooch with wire.

To make it more stable, Katie created a double strand with the chain and tapered both strands at the end to fit into one clasp.

Materials: About 6 inches of chain (you may be able to recycle something from a necklace you already own), a small amount of wire or small jump rings, a finishing clasp.

Estimated cost and time: About $6 and 60 to 90 minutes.

MARJORIE NEHRING, 23

Jewelry box: Marjorie started with a collection of vintage costume pieces from her grandmother that were dated, to say the least. The cluster of faux pearl clip-ons had pretty beads, but Marjorie wanted to create something contemporary.

Cheap trick: Katie suggested using the beads to make a bracelet. So step one was using wire cutters to unravel the beads. This was fairly easy, but required a lot of snipping.

Once she removed the beads, Marjorie noticed that the filagree-esque backing that the beads were bound to was like a pretty medallion. She decided to use that as the centerpiece for her new bracelet.

Katie got her started by attaching 3-inch pieces of wire to the makeshift medallion. The initial idea was to create a double-strand of faux pearls for the bracelet, but Marjorie had enough pearls for three rows.

Materials: Beading wire and finishing clasp.

Estimated time and materials: About $3 worth of materials and 60 to 90 minutes.

KAREN WALSH, 55

Jewelry box: Karen brought in a collection of earring pieces.

She kept them in hopes that maybe one day she might find their mates and as a memorial to her favorite earrings.

Cheap trick: Katie immediately thought of creating pendant-like charms to wear on a necklace with the earring pieces.

Karen’s items were simple, single stones on a wire, so the conversion was quick and easy. Katie suggested that Karen keep the items at different lengths so that she could wear them collectively or separately.

And now, she can add new charms if she ever loses other earrings.

The trickiest part was creating the loop at the top of each pendant. Katie used circular jewelry pliers to wrap the stem around, creating the vertical loop.

Then she secured it by wrapping the wire horizontally under the loop. She finished it off by giving the new coil at the bottom a little squeeze.

As a bonus, Katie suggested taking another single earring apart.

The earring had two identical tiers, so once separated, she quickly attached a hook earring piece to each tier, creating a new set of earrings.

Materials: Sterling earring hooks.

Estimated cost and time: About $2 and 20 minutes total for both projects.

CANDICE M. SMITH, 30

Jewelry box: Candice brought a few odd pieces including a necklace missing one of its dangly pearls and a few tribal pieces, but she ended up benefiting from the cast-offs from other members of the group.

Cheap trick: She used a large faux pearl clip-on earring from Marjorie to create a pendant in the middle of her pearly necklace.

Katie helped her loop wire to create a pearl drop for the center of her necklace.

Next, Candice used a brooch to create an asymmetrical necklace.

Inspired by Katie’s line of jewelry, Candice used the brooch as the focal point for her new necklace, but she wanted it to be purposefully off-center.

She removed the back and filed down the metal then incorporated the loose chain tassel from the bottom of the brooch as part of the necklace. She still needed extra length, so Katie attached some antiqued chain from her cast-offs. They then added two charms that Candice thought complemented the look with little circular clasps.

Materials: A headpin for the pendant, 6 inches of chain (can be used from a necklace you are already recycling), a few jump rings, some gold-filled wire and finishing clips.

Estimated cost and time: About five to 10 minutes and 10 cents for the pearl necklace; and about 60 minutes and $5 to convert the brooch.

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