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.


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