Biz Owner Operator, Culture, Design trends, In The Studio, Morocco, Upcycling

3 Things to Look for When Buying Fashion Jewelry

The world is on fire due to corporate greed and blowing up due to indoctrinated hate, and I’m just over here making pretty things. But what else can I do? Well, definitely going to continue reducing my contributions to corporate greed as much as I can.

In an ongoing process of refining the carbon footprint of my work, I now spend a couple of days a month salvaging broken and discarded jewelry. I use these bits in my classes and to create fresh jewelry. Here is a little breakdown of how this Big Box Brand stuff even gets to the streets of Morocco, Africa:

  1. People donate unloved jewelry to thrift/charity shops, 2. The shops sell the best bits, often online for ultimate prices, 3. Unsold and broken bits get sent to Africa, 4. Resealable stuff goes to used-goods licensed vendors, 5. “Unsalable” stuff goes to street vendors, and 6.How much toxic trash metal and plastic goes into landfills and water ways? I dunno, A LOT!
 Discarded jewelry for sale in Africa

So when you are out there just living your life and something new and sparkly catches your eye (as these things do!) and your impulses make your muscles reach for it for a little pick-me-up, consider these things:

  1. Any fabric in jewelry is going to get nasty real quick and then you won’t likely wear it anymore. Sure there is plenty of traditional jewelry made with fabric, especially leather, but the wearer is aware that their body oils and the environment will transform the NEW jewelry into something very different looking very quickly and they are cool with that. 

A sweet woven friendship bracelet may be worn until rots off, and that’s a great thing. But Fast Fashion jewelry made with cheap, colorful materials to catch your eye– and then quickly turns nasty from dirt, sweat, and wear – not cute.

2. Metallic-painted plastic is so evil. Most of us don’t even realize that’s what we’ve bought until it suddenly goes from cute to junk. This one is a little harder to spot, but I see SO MUCH of it in discarded jewelry piles because once the paint begins to chip, the jewelry reveals how cheap it is and gets discarded. Unlike when you wear some oxidized copper or silver and it has that rustic or aged look, chipped paint– there really is no such thing as shabby chic jewelry. Very, very few people like the look of chipped paint in their ears. When I upcycle components, I do not use painted plastic. It’s trash.

Must have been a really pretty necklace when it was sparkly new. But see all the “silver” beads with black plastic showing through? I was only able to salvage the six crystals and some of the non-silver chain.

3. Plastic in general…I don’t know what to tell you. We are having an environmental crisis due largely to plastic production and overconsumption, but dang these y2k necklaces, Swiftie bracelets, charms… so much cute irresistible stuff out there! You would drool over my second-hand LOL doll collection. But just try doing these things:

  • Invest in a few hand tools instead of impulsively buying fast fashion – yes, you can!
  • Play at making your own adornment, remaking your jewelry – super fun and satisfying hobby.
  • Buy used jewelry from thrifts, charity shops, and of course me!

And Number Four

*Bonus Thing: The metal “nickel” is another issue, especially for Americans. Nickel is banned from most personal items in Europe and other places because so many people are allergic to this cheap metal. But not in the US. So if you have discovered that you have a nickel/vague metal allergy – you are very likely already avoiding the mystery metals in fast fashion jewelry. So, yaye, thanks for reluctantly doing your part? 

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