Making Jewelry on a Shoestring Budget

Making Jewelry on a Shoestring budget

I know that there are times when we are feeling a monetary pinch.  We’d like to make more jewelry, but how are we going to afford those tools and materials?

Sure, in a perfect world we’d have every tool we wanted or needed to make any piece of jewelry we desired.

In the real world, we often improvise.  Especially when we’re just starting and not 100% sure what direction we’re going in.

Supply and Tools

#1 Tools

Here’s a list of the tools that I think are essential, and some ways to improvise the others.  And some ideas to get them on the cheap, too!

Essentials when getting started:

  • Wire cutters (and they should be sharp!)
  • Chain nose pliers
  • Round nose pliers (if you will be working with wire.  If not, you can pass on these.)

You will use them again and again if you’re working with wire. You might want to get some bent nose pliers or other pliers, too, but you can use your round nose pliers to do actually wrapping as well.

Other tools that are useful to have, but not essential:

  • Crimp tool (if you will be doing stringing and using crimp beads.)
  • Nylon covered pliers

And here are some ways to make due with stuff around the house:

  • For ring mandrels when making rings:  Use broom handles, paintbrush handles, markers, dowel rods or any other cylindrical thing that you determine is the same size as your finger.
  • For hammering wire, it’s ideal to use jewelry specific hammers, but normal household hammers work, too.  You will just get a different look on your pieces.  They’ll leave different marks on your wire.
  • Raid your toolbox for your “regular” tools.  These can often be used when you’re getting started or in a pinch.  Often you’ll find wire cutters on normal, non-jewelry making pliers as well.  Just be aware that if they are serrated (have teeth) they will mark up your wire.
  • When shaping wire, use anything you have around the right size and shape that you need:  markers, pens, paintbrushes, etc.
  • Nylon covered pliers are great for straightening wire, but you can often just use your fingers to do the same thing.
  • A sharpie is also a valuable tool for marking where you usually make loops on your round nose pliers so that your loops are all uniform.  It’s also great to form wire around them.

If you have no tools, you can still make jewelry!  Just use stretchy elastic string and tie it when you’re done.  Click here for a tutorial on how to make a stretchy bracelet and properly tie it.

How to get tools on the cheap:

  • Try A.C. Moore/Michael’s/other craft stores. They have weekly coupons of usually 40% off an item. You can even use a coupon to get 40% off a set if tools!  These are a great way to get started.  As you see what you use the most you can upgrade to higher quality.
  • Thrift stores, junk shops, garage sales, friends who are crafty (borrow them), flea markets.


#2 Beads/Materials

Find beads at thrift stores, garage sales, sales at bead stores, used jewelry sales (they have them in my area at libraries!)

Need help choosing thrift store jewelry to reconstruct into new jewelry, click here for my 9 Lessons in Choosing Thrift Store Jewelry post.  Or click here for a creativity challenge that involved going to the thrift store looking for jewelry to reconstruct.

My favorite bead store is Happy Mango Beads.  They often have sales on beads and you get great deals.

Check eBay for big lots of materials like findings and beads.  You can also find people “destashing” their supplies on etsy and get some great deals that way.

And of course, you can use those coupons I mentioned from A.C. Moore/Michael’s/Other craft stores to get beads, too!


#3 Other Materials

Wire can be expensive. I highly recommend not using silver when you’re first starting out! It can be very disappointing to have very expensive wire and have your design work out.


Inexpensive silver plated wire from craft stores.

Cooper, brass or steel wire at hardware stores.


Ready to Make Jewelry?

Intro to Jewelry Making eCourse

I have a completely FREE 14 Day eCourse that will introduce you to jewelry making and especially wire wrapping.

Just sign up for my newsletter and you’ll automatically receive the lessons plus you’ll get weekly emails from me with more jewelry tips and tutorials plus you’ll be the first to know about new eCourses, eBooks and jewelry patterns I’m releasing!

Just fill in the form below to get started!

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Email Format

12 Ideas for Alternative Jewelry Supplies

Alternative Jewelry SuppliesAs you may know, I am a recycled jewelry artist.  (Though, I’ve been on a bit of a break to teach.)

You may wonder what exactly that means.  I make jewelry from materials that are upcycled and/or recycled.  I use materials that are either destined for the landfills or sitting around in sheds and cabinets and transform them into wearable art.  I use little to no new resources, and the new resources I do use I try my very best to use recycled or sustainable products or products from companies whose beliefs align with mine.

Once I started watching for alternative materials to make jewelry, I started to find them everywhere.  My dad’s garage, antique stores, thrift store, auctions, yard sales, the recycling bin, etc.  Friends started giving me things.  Their chandelier fell apart?  Okay, give it to Kim.  Old keys that no longer unlock anything.  Give it to Kim.  Scrabble tile games (and more and more and more Scrabble games lol) found at auctions.  Give them to Kim.

Alternative suppliesStrolling through the rows of a flea market you might find any number of interesting little pieces just calling out to be made into jewelry.

CompassThink of the adventure bracelet you could make with an old mini compass.

Fabric Buttons 4Or the awesome button rings you could make with these beautiful buttons!

Here’s a list of even more ideas of unconventional items to use in your jewelry making:

  1. Hardware:  washers, nuts and other hardware.
  2. Keys:  Skeleton keys are awesome, but other keys can be fun, too!
  3. Buttons (of course!)
  4. Game pieces:  Dominoes, Scrabble Tiles, Rumikub pieces, Monopoly and others.
  5. Coins
  6. Old bits of things:  pieces of rulers and other items.
  7. Old little numbers and letters.
  8. Clock hands
  9. Crystals from chandeliers
  10. Keyhole covers
  11. Old milk lids
  12. Plastic bottles:  cut them up into whatever shape you want!

Just keep an open mind and see what you find!  Just remember, be careful when thinking about making earrings to not make them with materials that are too heavy.  If you find things that are rusty, you can seal them so they’re safe against your skin.

Have fun!


Free Jewelry Making TutorialsWant 4 Free Jewelry Tutorials and 20 Questions to Ask Yourself When Designing Jewelry?  Sign up for my email newsletter.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Email Format