Published on September 11th, 2011 | by Julie Finn


How-to: Upcycle a Vintage Glass Necklace with Nail Polish

vintage glass necklace painted with nail polish

My Mammaw was quite the stylish lady. When she went out on the town with my handsome Pappaw in the 1950s, she always wore the best, most fashionable clothes, and she had the jewelry to match.

Of course, those fashionable clothes were often home-sewn, and that flashy jewelry was often made of glass, but who cared? The lady looked amazing!

When Mammaw, near the end of her life, handed me her jewelry box and the sticker labels and told me to pick out some treasures to keep (an excellent system, by the way, which worked quite well in our family), sure, I tagged the hand-painted bead necklace that Pappaw bought for her right after he liberated Rome, and the silver necklace that I’m too afraid to take out of its special dark velvet bag and actually wear. But I have no real interest in gold and gemstones, and so I asked for, and soon after received, lots of that flashy glass jewelry that made Mammaw such a fashion sensation in the 50s.

That glass jewelry may make its biggest sensation in the dress-up bin these days, but it’s still beloved. For those special dress-up occasions, such as Halloween or fancy-dress birthday parties, my girls and I are fond of giving our jewelry a quick and easy paint job using nail polish. The project uses about as much nail polish as it takes to do your nails, cleans right off with nail polish remover, and best of all, you can use this method to match your jewelry perfectly to your outfit, and, of course, your fingernails. Here’s how:

glass necklace with nail polishTo begin, gather up a piece of costume jewelry made of glass or any other synthetic diamond mimic. If you’re going to want to clean off the nail polish later, be mindful of your material, since the acetone in nail polish remover isn’t a friendly chemical. We haven’t had a problem with the acetone scratching or otherwise marring our vintage glass jewelry, but frankly, I’m of the mindset that my possessions are here for me to use, not coddle so much that they end up gathering dust in a jewelry box until the end of my life, so I’m not your best resource about keeping your valuables archivally sound and pristine, etc.

Now, if you want to void warranties and paint your costume jewelry hot pink and turquoise, I’m your Momma.

Any nail polish will work for our purposes. Remember that you can paint on as many layers as you choose, so you can make even subtle shades pop on your jewelry.

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About the Author

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now. Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.

2 Responses to How-to: Upcycle a Vintage Glass Necklace with Nail Polish

  1. Hugatreewithme says:

    this isnt a very green upcycle as most traditional nail polishes are made using toxic chemicals

    • Pumpkinbear says:

      Is, too, since upcycling itself is green. We usefully re-use our materials, even if they’re not natural, to avoid waste and to make the most use of previously manufactured resources.

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